The ongoing conflict in Libya between the UN-recognized government and a breakaway commander is imperilling the unity of the country and will have lasting effects even if hostilities were to immediately cease, the UN’s Libya envoy said Tuesday.
“Libya is on the verge of descending into a civil war which could lead to the permanent division of the country,” Ghassan Salame told the Security Council.
In early April, renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, who commands forces loyal to a government based in the country’s east, launched a major campaign to capture Tripoli, where Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) is headquartered.
After more than a month of fighting on Tripoli’s outskirts, however, Haftar’s campaign has failed to achieve its primary objective.
Nevertheless, Haftar’s forces remain deployed in several areas around the capital.
Libya has remained beset by turmoil since 2011 when long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a bloody NATO-backed uprising after four decades in power.
The oil-rich country has since seen the emergence of two rival seats of power: one in eastern Libya, with which Haftar is affiliated, and the Tripoli-based GNA, which enjoys UN recognition.
Salame warned that the damage already done to Libya will require years of reconstruction to mend, “and that’s only if the war is ended now,” he said.
“The violence on the outskirts of Tripoli is just the start of a long and bloody war on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, imperilling the security of Libya’s immediate neighbours and the wider Mediterranean region,” he said, warning that terror groups such as Daesh and al-Qaeda have taken advantage of a security vacuum in the country’s south that Haftar’s redeployment of forces has enabled.