The U.N. Security Council endorsed a 55-point road map for ending the war in Libya on Wednesday and condemned the recent increase in violence in the oil-rich North African country.
The vote on the British-drafted resolution was 14-0, with Russia abstaining even though Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of the 12 leaders who agreed to the plan at a conference in Berlin on Jan. 19.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said he abstained because the government has “serious doubts” about whether the resolution can be implemented and end the war between rival governments “in the way we’d like to see it.” He said the Berlin plan “has one defect … and that is a lack of clearly expressed consent from the Libyan sides themselves.”
“Events will show us who was right,” Nebenzia said. “And if the resolution will have a positive impact in resolving the conflict, I will be the first to acknowledge I was wrong.”
British Ambassador Karen Pierce countered that “the resolution is viable,” saying all it does “is give concrete expression to the commitments that leaders adopted at Berlin — and that included adoption by President Putin.”
“We all want to see it implemented,” she said. “But it will be up to the parties on the ground and their foreign backers as to whether or not it gets implemented. So to the Russians and the others who have very close interests in Libya, I would think the remedy is in their hands.”
Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a civil war toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed. In the chaos that followed the country was divided.
A weak U.N.-recognized administration that holds the capital of Tripoli and parts of the country’s west is backed by Turkey, which recently sent thousands of soldiers to Libya, and to a lesser degree Qatar and Italy as well as local militias.
On the other side is a rival government in the east that supports self-styled Gen. Khalifa Haftar, whose forces launched an offensive to capture the capital last April and are backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt as well as France and Russia.
The Tripoli authorities and U.S. officials have accused Haftar of relying on hundreds of Russian mercenaries. Sudanese armed groups from the Darfur region recently joined the fighting on both sides, according to a report by U.N. experts.
Acting U.S. deputy ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet told the council after the vote that it’s “very unfortunate that foreign mercenaries, including from the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group, are making an inclusive political solution harder to achieve” and making it harder for the two sides to get together.
The resolution demands that all countries refrain from interfering in Libya’s conflict and its internal affairs and observe a U.N. arms embargo, “including by ceasing all support for and withdrawing all armed mercenary personnel.” Russia sought unsuccessfully to change references to growing involvement of mercenaries in the initial draft to “foreign terrorist fighters.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last week that the Berlin agreement has been repeatedly violated by continuing arms deliveries to the warring parties and escalating fighting. He called the current offensives by rival forces “a scandal,” saying the commitments “apparently were made without a true intention of respecting them.”
The resolution welcomes last week’s cease-fire talks between Libya’s warring sides in Geneva and calls for their continuation “without further delay in order to agree a permanent cease-fire.”
It asks Guterres to submit his views on conditions for a cease-fire and proposals for effective monitoring of a truce, with a view to making detailed recommendations when a cease-fire is announced. The African Union, European Union and Arab League have been mentioned as possible participants in cease-fire monitoring along with the U.N.
Germany’s deputy ambassador, Juergen Schulz, said the council was sending “an important signal for peace in Libya, reaffirming the concrete commitments of all the participants of the Berlin conference.”
He welcomed the timing — ahead of a Feb. 16 follow-up ministerial meeting of Berlin conference participants on the sidelines of the Munich security conference.
“The swift implementation of the Berlin conclusions is now crucial in light of the ongoing violations of international humanitarian law and reports of mounting civilian casualties,” Schulz said.
The resolution threatens sanctions against those supporting acts that threaten peace which Schulz said demonstrates the council’s “resolve to hold violators accountable.”
South African Ambassador Jerry Matjila, whose country chairs the African Union, stressed Libya’s roots in Africa, saying the arms embargo must be observed to prevent the conflict spilling into the Sahel.
“The African Union has been very ready to play a central role, including the issue of monitoring of peace,” he said. “The road ahead is going to be very, very difficult, long. So it really needs all hands on deck, and you couldn’t do that without African hands.”