Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Libya

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
September 5, 2018


We’d like to thank Special Representative Salamé for his sobering briefing today. The key conclusion from today’s meeting is that you have the full support of this Council for your work. We are united behind you.

The recent escalating violence in Tripoli continues to undermine an already fragile Libya. The Libyan people deserve peace and security. We welcome yesterday’s announcement from UNSMIL that a cessation of hostilities has been reached. The United States stands fully with you as UNSMIL continues its mediation efforts, and we call on all Libyan parties to refrain from any actions that could undermine the ceasefire and set back Libyan efforts to advance the political process.

Any attempt to weaken Libyan authorities and hamper the course of the UN-facilitated political process is totally unacceptable, as we reiterated with our partners from France, Italy, and the United Kingdom yesterday and this past weekend.

Since the revolution seven years ago, the Libyan people have been asking for things that any of us would want. They want an end to the fighting. They want to see basic services like electricity and water switched back on. They want to see Libya’s oil wealth invested for the benefit of the people. They want the dignity of living in a state that respects their rights after decades of tyranny.

The sad truth is that a small number of political spoilers block this vision, in some cases backed by militias. Looking out for their own narrow interests, they undermine the United Nations’ hard work to get a dialogue underway. This has to end.

There should be no military path to power in Libya. If the violence gets worse, the only winners will be terrorists and criminals. More fighting plays into the hands of human traffickers who are committing unspeakable abuses as they funnel desperate people onto dangerous journeys toward Europe.

A different path for Libya is possible. A handful of political spoilers should not be permitted to hold this process hostage. All of us, especially our European partners, Libya’s neighbors, and countries in the region, need to say enough is enough. We need to push Libya’s different factions to enter into actual negotiations.

As the recent instability in Tripoli clearly demonstrated, we need a realistic roadmap for Libya to move toward secure, credible, and inclusive elections as soon as possible, rooted in an inclusive constitutional process. It’s obvious from today’s discussions that we are impatient to see progress. But imposing false deadlines will backfire, and could lead to even worse divisions inside Libya. We look to UNSMIL to guide the international community toward an understanding of what that realistic roadmap entails.

The Government of National Accord is a steadfast partner of the United States, and we commend its efforts throughout this challenging period. The Government of National Accord shares our goal of a more secure and stable Libya and one that will be a partner in international efforts to fight terrorism. We fully endorse UNSMIL’s central role in support of the GNA’s economic reform agenda to help address fiscal transparency and equitable distribution of resources across Libya for all Libyans.

We were pleased that the Security Council was able to designate six migrant smugglers earlier this year for their abuses in Libya. This was the first time that we’ve ever used sanctions to respond to migrant trafficking. We remain deeply concerned about the welfare of these migrants and will also keep up our efforts to ensure criminal gangs involved in such activity cannot operate with impunity.

Despite all of these challenges, one thing has not changed in Libya. That is the potential of the Libyan people and their keen desire to create a better country for themselves.

I’d like to share the story of Fatima Nasser, a 21 year-old living in the southern city of Sabha. Fatima is an entrepreneur who realized that her hometown had an amazing untapped resource – not oil – food. Women across the city were at home preparing superb dishes in their kitchens. The food was so good Fatima thought that people would be willing to pay for it.

She created an app that links customers with these at-home chefs. Women are now starting to earn income from their homes, and the Libyan public is enjoying purchases of home-cooked meals. The app is taking off. Fatima is launching her service in Libya’s largest cities very soon. Silicon Valley should have an eye on people like Fatima.

The point is that Libyans are ready to build a brighter future. Our responsibility is to help them get there.

Thank you.