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
November 8, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President. We, too, would like to thank Special Representative Salamé for his important and detailed briefing, and I’d like to thank Ambassador Skoog for sharing his impressions from his recent trip to Libya.

Mr. President, the stakes for achieving stability and progress in Libya have never been higher. In recent months, heavily-armed militias continue to fight each other street by street to control property and resources without consideration for their fellow Libyans. Thousands of desperate people from across the continent wishing for a better life continue to die after setting sail from Libya’s shores despite the decline in migrant smuggling and trafficking this year. ISIS and other violent extremist groups continue to look for safe havens in areas beyond the government’s authority.

Too often, the international community has failed to speak with one voice in support of UN mediation, creating excuses for recalcitrant Libyan leaders, pulling their country back toward chaos.

Mr. President, the Libyan people are suffering and simply want what we all deserve: security, dignity, and a chance for prosperity.

For far too many Libyans, the promise of a new life following decades-long tyranny of a brutal dictatorship has begun to fade, as a small number of Libyan leaders and armed groups prey upon Libya’s wealth and pursue their narrow self-interests at the expense of the country. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Special Representative Salamé, amid all the setbacks, we continue to look to your leadership to break the impasse that has regrettably persisted in Libya over the past several years. We commend your leadership in de-escalating the violence in Tripoli and helping the Libyans begin to put in place more durable security arrangements for the capital. We also note the important steps Prime Minister al-Sarraj and other Libyan leaders have taken to establish national security forces that can finally break the stranglehold of violence and instability caused by armed groups, especially in Tripoli. The United States fully supports this vital work to strengthen security arrangements. While the ceasefire remains fragile, a political process can’t proceed under the threat of violence.

Mr. President, the United States remains strongly committed to the efforts to facilitate a Libyan-led, Libyan-owned political process. We strongly support Special Representative Salamé’s vision to lay the groundwork for an inclusive constitutional process and credible, peaceful, and well-prepared elections, building on the momentum of the UN-facilitated National Conference.

Next week’s international conference on Libya in Palermo, hosted by our Italian partners, will build on the momentum generated by the Paris conference last May and offer a crucial opportunity for Libyan and international leaders to hear about the UN’s roadmap for breaking out of the political paralysis in Libya. We stand ready to support. It’s vital that key Libyan constituencies, including Sebha and the south, be an active part of this political process.

We share the assessment that achieving political progress will require greater attention to the economic dimensions of the conflict, and we call on the Government of National Accord to redouble its efforts to move forward with comprehensive monetary and subsidy reforms, which Libya urgently needs to stabilize its economy. Equally critical are the UN’s efforts to accelerate an audit of the Central Bank of Libya, an important step toward greater transparency of Libya’s economic institutions. These reforms will reinforce a much-needed conversation among Libyan leaders about fiscal transparency and a more equitable distribution of the country’s oil resources.

The United States stands ready to support the Libyans in discussion on economic challenges, at Libya’s request and in close partnership with UNSMIL.

Mr. President, this Council should use all of our collective influence to support Libyans on their path. While we recognize that any mediation process will inevitably face setbacks as we’ve seen time and time again, we’re confident that these obstacles can be overcome because of one critical element: the spirit of the Libyan people.

The Libyan people have suffered for far too long. Libyans have made clear that they are fatigued by the insecurity, by lack of opportunity, and with the many spoilers who continue to obstruct a political transition to a better future. We call on all parties in Libya to seize this critical opportunity to set the course toward a better future for their citizens. All who threaten Libya’s peace, security, and stability must be held to account.

Special Representative Salamé, your task undoubtedly remains a daunting one, but you can count on the full backing of this Council as you advance toward our shared goal of a long-lasting political solution for the benefit of all Libyans.

Thank you.