TRIPOLI - Leaders in Libya must take immediate steps to resolve their political impasse, which is spilling over into increasing violence, UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo told the Security Council on Tuesday.

The North African country became divided between two rival administrations in the years after the overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi a decade ago. The Government of National Accord (GNA) is based in the capital, Tripoli, located in the west, while the Libyan National Army (LNA) is in the east.

Despite relative calm in recent years, tensions have been simmering following the failure to hold long-awaited elections last December, and the refusal of incumbent Prime Minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, to step down.

Rival Fathi Bashagha, who was appointed Prime Minister by the parliament in the east, has been attempting to enter Tripoli.

Ms. DiCarlo said she is deeply concerned that the ongoing stalemate and continued delays in implementing the electoral process pose a growing threat to security in and around Tripoli, and potentially to all Libyans.


‘Theatre of violent clashes’


“That threat materialized just a few days ago, when Tripoli was again the theatre of violent clashes between armed groups supporting Mr. Dbeibah and Mr. Bashaga respectively,” she told ambassadors.

The violence broke out on 27 August, leaving at least 42 people dead, including four civilians, and nearly 160 injured, according to the Libyan authorities. Some 50 families were reportedly displaced, while five health centres and two migrant detention centres were damaged.

While the fighting subsided the following day, a fragile calm prevails but it is unclear how long it will last.

"In light of the deterioration of the political and security climate in Tripoli, the United Nations must continue to provide and enhance good offices and mediation to help Libyan actors resolve the ongoing impasse and seek a consensual pathway to elections," she said.

"I urge everyone to support the Secretary-General’s efforts to help Libyans forge a path to peace."

Ms. DiCarlo was also concerned about the limited political progress towards the elections, which the UN sees as the only way to break the current impasse.


No progress


“Despite our continued efforts, no progress has been made on forging a consensus on a constitutional framework for the elections,” she said. “It is critical that an agreement is reached on a constitutional framework and timeline for elections that will enable the Libyan people to choose their leaders.”

The UN political affairs chief did highlight some positive developments, such as the ongoing efforts by the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) to preserve and strengthen the implementation of the ceasefire agreement.

The JMC brings together five military representatives each from both sides.

“Of note, on 27 August the eastern delegation to the JMC called their counterparts in the west to reassure them that the Libyan National Army would not be involved in the fighting,” she reported.

Earlier this month, the JMC also met with the UN Mission in the country, UNSMIL, to enhance the readiness of the Libyan Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism. They also finalized modalities for the withdrawal of foreign forces, foreign fighters and mercenaries from the territory.


Oil flowing again


Turning to economic developments, Ms. DiCarlo reported that oil production resumed in July, following a nearly three-month shutdown. Production had reached pre-shutdown levels of 1.2 million barrels a day by the end of that month, with plans for further increase.

However, she was worried that oil fields could again close due to growing public discontent in the south over lack of basic services and poor living conditions.

“Libya’s natural resources belong to all Libyans, and revenues from oil exports should be distributed equitably and fairly,” she said.


Smear campaigns, and hate speech


Meanwhile the human rights situation in the country continues to be a concern.

Last week, armed groups affiliated with the Libyan National Army, one of the rival government structures, encircled the town of Qasr Bouhadi. Although these “military actors” have since withdrawn, they continue to control movement there.

Ms. DiCarlo called for restrictions on the population to be immediately lifted, warning that the situation could escalate.

She reported on other violations, including against people exercising their right to freedom of expression, migrants and refugees, and women activists.

“Smear campaigns targeting civil society actors, particularly women, consisting of hate speech and incitements to violence, are deeply concerning and must cease,” she said.