Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on UNSMIL and Libya Sanctions

Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 16, 2017


Thank you, Mr. President, and good morning, Minister Siala. To both of you, your presence here underscores the importance of this briefing. We also thank Special Representative Salamé and Ambassador Skoog for their briefings. SRSG Salamé, the United States joins the many others around this table in offering our full support for your many efforts. The United States commends all of your work to reinvigorate a political process in Libya and to help the Libyan people achieve political reconciliation. It should be clear from this meeting today that you have the strong backing of this Security Council.

There is a real opportunity here for Libya to turn the page on years of strife. Libya’s leaders can put the country on the road to greater stability and economic prosperity by fully engaging with the UN political process. Now is the time for all political actors to show leadership and to take decisive steps toward peace. We, as members of this Council, must also use all of our collective influence to support Libyans on this path. Of course, the road to peace is not always direct, and any mediation process will face setbacks. We are confident that these obstacles can be overcome through the international community’s unified support to SRSG Salamé and the UN-facilitated political process. All of us must speak in one voice in emphasizing the UN’s central role. We look forward to maintaining close cooperation with you, SRSG Salamé, as you continue to implement the Action Plan that this Council unanimously endorsed.

We also recognize the leadership of Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj and the Government of National Accord in advancing political reconciliation in Libya. As the UN Action Plan rightly envisions, the ultimate goal must be to help Libyans prepare for elections that will be broadly accepted. Elections should take place when the political groundwork is in place and when security conditions allow. Political dialogue is the only way forward in Libya. Any attempt to impose a military solution will only further destabilize Libya, play into the hands of ISIS and other terrorist groups, and undermine efforts to address the challenge of migration.

The Libyan people have suffered for far too long. Libyans have made clear that they are tired of insecurity and tired of spoilers undermining political transitions. Spoilers in Libya must not block or delay reconciliation any longer. This includes any attempts to undermine the integrity of the Libyan government and Libya’s core economic institutions.

Some parties have asserted that the Libyan Political Agreement expires on the two-year anniversary of its signing on December 17. The international community must reject these claims definitively. They will benefit no one but political spoilers who think that by dragging their feet and running down the clock, they can bypass the UN-facilitated political process. The Libyan Political Agreement remains the only valid framework through Libya’s transitional period.

We all want a swift political resolution to the conflict, but imposing false deadlines will backfire. SRSG Salamé announced the UN’s Action Plan in September, and we must ensure he has the time and support necessary to implement it. Any political and security vacuum will only undermine the reconciliation process and further destabilize Libya.

We are concerned about recent increases in fighting in certain parts of Libya. The United States is particularly concerned about the recent airstrike in Derna, which is a city in dire need of immediate and unfettered humanitarian access. We also join the Government of National Accord in condemning the uncovering of a mass grave in Al-Abyar, where 36 people were found shot to death. Those who are responsible for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of international human rights law must be held accountable.

The United States is also concerned about the tense security situation in western Libya, including Zawiya and Warshefana. Any destabilizing military activity could escalate quickly into significant armed civil conflict.

Finally, turning to sanctions, we want to focus on the challenge of illegal smuggling of crude oil and petroleum products from Libya. This Council, at the Government of National Accord’s request, has repeatedly condemned these illicit transactions. Earlier this year, the Council designated two vessels, the Capricorn and the Lynn S, for their involvement in illegal fuel smuggling. These vessels remain sanctioned. Therefore, we remind all Member States, particularly those in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, that these vessels must not be permitted to enter their ports. We also reiterate that Flag States of these vessels must fulfill their obligation to direct the ships not to load, transport, or discharge their cargo.

Now looking ahead, the United States believes that now is a crucial opportunity for Libyans to make real progress toward political reconciliation. SRSG Salamé and the international community are aligned behind this objective. Now is the moment for Libya’s leaders to engage in good faith with SRSG Salamé.

The United States will work to mobilize the international community against anyone that disrupts the UN process. But we hope that Libyans will be able to put their differences aside for the sake of their country’s future. It is long past time for Libya to re-build its institutions and its economy. The United States urges all Libyans – in the East, West, and South – to come together in a shared effort to ensure Libya’s security and prosperity.

Thank you, Mr. President.