I want to thank again Mr. Kobler, as well as Ambassador Skoog, for both of your briefings and for your insight.
The stakes for achieving stability in Libya are high. Heavily-armed factions fight each other to control land and resources. Thousands of desperate migrants die every year after setting sail from Libya’s shores. ISIS and other violent extremist groups are looking for safe havens in places that are beyond the government’s authority. The Libyan people are suffering.
For too many Libyans, the promise of throwing off a brutal dictator has been replaced by the reality of harsh conditions and life under militias. The effects of this instability are spreading throughout North Africa and across the Mediterranean.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If Libya’s leaders can work together, with the support of the UN and the international community, Libya can start to rebuild.
This path starts with a national political reconciliation among Libya’s parties. The status quo, with different officials all claiming to speak for the Libyan people, is not sustainable. It does nothing to re-establish the institutions and the security that the Libyan people crave.
The United States believes that the best way to resolve differences is through a Libyan-led dialogue with the support of the UN and the international community. All parties should immediately commit to this process. If the parties do not come together soon, Libya will only grow more dangerous and difficult to govern. That is an outcome no party should want.
The Libyan Political Agreement remains the framework that Libyans agreed on for their country’s transition. It is the roadmap toward a democratic Libyan state – one in which all Libyans can have a say. So implementing the agreement is vital to restoring stability. The United States welcomes indications of support from many parties for the agreement.
At the same time, we call on those who have not yet dedicated themselves to engaging in the process and ask them to do so immediately. There may need to be certain amendments to the agreement but the important point is that every Libyan faction needs to come together in a national dialogue and agree on how to carry out its terms. Dialogue and compromise. That is what the United States urges the parties to do.
But some actors have pursued destabilizing military operations while refusing to fully commit to finding political agreement. Violence on the ground has escalated in recent weeks. Conflict now looms at Tamehint airfield, where forces aligned with the UN-recognized government were recently attacked by a rival group.
These destabilizing attacks are unacceptable. They must stop now. When Libya’s factions keep fighting, instead of talking, the biggest winners are the terrorist groups.
Libya’s security cannot rest in the hands of different factions. The country deserves a national, unified military under civilian oversight. Moving forward in Libya requires building up this kind of force – one that is capable of securing the country. That is an extremely tough task. Libya’s international parties need to be clear in pushing for a single government security force.
Finally, the Libyan Government of National Accord must deliver for the country’s people. But the government cannot function unless it has control over the resources that make up its budget. Libya’s oil wealth can help fund the restoration of public services, including policing and other security measures. The UN and Libya’s international partners must help the Government of National Accord manage the country’s resources so the government can help ordinary Libyans with their everyday needs.
That’s why Libya’s oil and petroleum industry must be safeguarded for the benefit of the country’s people. When groups try to smuggle Libyan oil out of the country, they are smuggling away Libya’s future. These are the funds that would otherwise help rebuild Libya’s shattered economy.
So we in this Council need to take an unequivocal stand against oil smuggling from Libya in all of its forms. The international community must work closely with the GNA and the National Oil Corporation based in the capital to shut these rogue operations down. That is what the resolutions of this Security Council demand.
None of this will be easy. Libya faces an immensely challenging road ahead to rebuild its institutions and recover from years of civil war. The first step, though, is clear. Libya’s leaders need to come together in support of a single government and a single military. They need to talk through their differences, not fight them out.
And they need to compromise. That is the message each of us on this Council needs to bring to the parties. That is how we can one day stop talking about Libya as a threat to peace and security, and instead focus on the opportunities Libya has to thrive.