Security forces patrol south of Libyan capital Tripoli
Africa

UN Chief Warns Of Sweeping 'Wind Of Madness' As World Powers Ignore Libya Arms Embargo

A recent arms embargo has been brushed to one side, says United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.

Security forces patrol south of Libyan capital Tripoli

The United Nations Secretary-General has labeled continued fighting in Libya a "scandal", following an agreed arms embargo less than one month ago.

Setting out the organisation's 2020 priorities, Antonio Guterres condemned the world powers he says have broken the deal made on 19 January, not to interfere in the North African conflict.

"I've spoken recently about 'winds of hope' - but, today, a wind of madness is sweeping the globe," he said.

A return of escalation, the flow of arms and an increase in offensives have contributed to "growing instability and hair-trigger tensions" in Libya, Yemen, Syria, added Mr Guterres.

The conflict in Libya pits powerful General Khalifa Haftar, Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), against the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).

The LNA is backed by Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan. Armed militias also display support for both sides.

Foreign powers had pledged not to interfere, withdrawing aid to warring parties, but Mr Guterres says both sides are ignoring the conclusions from the Berlin summit.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres PA Images
Antonio Guterres is "deeply frustrated" with continued foreign interference in the Libyan war (Picture: PA).

"The truth is that the Security Council embargo remains violated," Mr Guterres said.

"We still see planes coming, both to Misrata and to Benghazi.

"We haven't seen any relevant stop in the respect... of the arms embargo."

Since the disregard for the truce, more civilians have been targetted in Libya, amid a remaining migrant crisis, he added.

Last week, the UN support mission in Libya released a statement saying several countries at the conference had immediately violated the agreement to cease arms flow to Libya.

Numerous cargo and other flights were seen to land at airports in both the east and the west - providing rival governments with weapons, vehicles and fighters.

One week after the talks in Berlin, violence erupted as General Haftar's eastern-based LNA forces advanced towards the strategic western city of Misrata, which hosts GNA militias.

Those same fighters have been key in the GNA's defence of capital Tripoli, which has come under siege from General Haftar since last April.  

Libya has seen large-scale conflict since the uprising in 2011 saw the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

At the press conference, the UN Secretary-General also called for peaceful, political solutions in Syria and Yemen and for the protection of human rights in Iraq - after hundreds of anti-government protesters have been killed since last October.

Meetings between LNA and GNA military representatives have commenced in Geneva, Switzerland, to work toward a ceasefire, according to Mr Guterres.

Cover image: Security forces patrol south of the contested Libyan capital, Tripoli, in November 2019 (Picture: PA).