The U.N. Security Council gave strong backing Wednesday to holding presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya, which could be a significant step in bringing stability to a country where lawlessness has fed Islamist militancy, human trafficking and instability.
The council adopted a French-drafted presidential statement that welcomed “the momentum generated” by an international conference on Libya hosted by President Emmanuel Macron on May 29 where rival Libyan leaders agreed on a political roadmap leading to elections on Dec. 10.
It also welcomed the leaders’ commitment “to work constructively with the U.N. to organize credible and peaceful parliamentary and presidential elections, and to respect the results.” But the council didn’t specify an election date.
The U.N.’s most powerful body warned that “the current political and security situation in Libya is not sustainable.” It noted “the resounding call of all Libyans for credible, inclusive and peaceful elections in order to achieve a united and stable Libya.”
A presidential statement is a step below a Security Council resolution and must be approved by all 15 council members. It is usually read at an official council meeting and becomes part of the council’s official record, unlike press statements.
France’s U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre said the presidential statement sends “a strong message to all the parties in Libya that the Security Council and the international community is fully united behind the results of the Paris conference” and full implementation of the agreement.
Libya plunged into chaos following a 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Since 2014, the country has been split between rival governments and parliaments based in the western and eastern regions, each backed by different militias and tribes.
France has been trying to play peacemaker in a country where years of efforts by the United Nations and former colonial power Italy have failed to bring stability.
The Paris conference brought together Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, head of Libya’s U.N.-backed government in the capital of Tripoli, and Gen. Khalifa Hifter, whose forces dominate eastern Libya.
In the eight-point declaration that closed the conference, the Libyan leaders committed to accepting electoral results and ensuring funds and “strong security arrangements” for the voting. They also commit to work on “phasing out parallel government and institutions” and on “the unifying of the Libyan Central Bank and other institutions.”
The Security Council presidential statement welcomed the Libyan parties’ recognition “of the importance of developing a constitutional basis for elections.” And it recognized the key role of U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame “in consulting with Libyan parties to set the constitutional basis for elections and to adopt the necessary laws.”
A council diplomat, who was not authorized to speak publicly, stressed the importance of ensuring the constitutional basis for elections and approval of electoral laws before voting takes place.
The statement noted the commitment of the parties to the Paris agreement “to organize an inclusive political conference” under U.N. auspices to follow up on implementation of the roadmap.
It also expressed concern at the humanitarian situation in Libya, especially in Derna, where clashes have been ongoing since April, and called on all parties “to exercise restraint.”