New York : On day four of UN-led talks to transform an uncertain truce in Libya into a permanent ceasefire, veteran negotiator Ghassan Salamé on Thursday welcomed the “progress” that had been made so far, before urging an end to any “provocative” military action that might dash the chance of a successful outcome.
“Progress has been made on many important issues and we have before us a significant number of points of convergence”, said the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, UNSMIL. “Is this complete? Certainly not, and that is why we are still working on refining our basic draft and on bridging the gap on a few points of divergence…that still exist between the two delegations.”
"Progress has been made on many important issues & we have before us a significant number of points of convergence. Is this complete? Certainly not. That is why we are still working on refining our basic draft & on bridging the gaps," - @UNSMILibya head Ghassan Salamé
The talks in the Swiss city form part of a renewed international push for peace in the oil-rich North African country.
In early January, Russian and Turkish Presidents Vladmir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan secured a truce agreement between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) - led by commander Khalifa Haftar, who laid siege to Tripoli last April.
Although the truce had been accepted by both sides, Mr. Salamé noted earlier in the week that an international arms embargo on Libya has been broken “incessantly” since 2011, with evidence of increasing foreign interference in the form of weapons and fighters.
Need for ‘calm’ on frontline
“During these talks, the negotiators would be certainly helped by more calm on the fronts and by the absence of any act - provocative act - on the military side,” the UN official said on Thursday, in reference to ongoing clashes.
While remaining positive about the meetings this week, which precedes separate discussions on the economic aspects of the ceasefire, due to begin on 9 February in Cairo, with political talks on 26 February - also at the UN in Geneva - Mr Salamé spoke frankly about the number of difficult issues facing both delegations.
“What do you do with the heavy weaponry? How (best) to allow the internally displaced persons to go back to their homes? How to re-civilianize the areas that have been basically a theatre of war? How do you deal with the armed groups, the monitoring of the ceasefire; who should monitor the ceasefire?”
Although the ongoing ceasefire talks have not taken place face-to-face so far, this is the least of Mr. Salamé concerns, he insisted.
‘Photo opportunity’ not the goal
“I didn’t come to Geneva for a photo opportunity of two people shaking hands, that’s not my objective. My goal is to reach an agreement. And if it turns out that it is easier to do this by shuttling between the two (delegations), I have no problem with that. The important thing is the agreement.”
UN in Libya condemns destruction of Sufi shrine
UNSMIL on Thursday condemned the destruction of the Zawit Bin Issa Sufi shrine, in the city of Sirte, which reportedly took place on Tuesday, as well as the reported arrest of a number of Sufis in Sirte.
According to some news reports, the destruction was carried out by members of an armed group who partly demolished the building, reportedly founded in 1930. Sufism is a branch of Islam, rooting in mysticism.
In a statement, the Mission recalled that "the incidents appear to violate the right to freedom of religion or belief and the right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention.
"The destruction of religious shrines is also prohibited by international humanitarian law, and intentional attacks on religious monuments constitute war crimes. UNSMIL calls on the authorities, in control of the city of Sirte, to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice."
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