Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Security Council VTC Meeting on the situation in Libya, 19 May 2020

Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Security Council VTC Meeting on the situation in Libya, 19 May 2020


Mr President,


Allow me to thank Acting Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission (UNSMIL) in Libya, Ms Stephanie Williams, for her detailed briefing on the latest political, security and economic developments in Libya for the period under review. Equally, I thank the Chair of the Libya Sanctions Committee Ambassador Jürgen Schulz for his briefing on the work of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.


Mr President,


South Africa remains deeply concerned at the prevailing security situation in Libya, the increasingly challenging humanitarian circumstances in the country and the ongoing fighting, in spite of efforts towards a ceasefire and the calls for a humanitarian pause given the threat of COVID-19. It is regrettable that parties in Libya failed to heed the Secretary-General’s call for a humanitarian pause to allow local authorities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during Ramadan.


Allow me to focus my intervention on three issues:


Firstly, my delegation reiterates that there can be no military solution to the conflict in Libya. All Libyan parties, community leaders and non-governmental organisations should commit to a cessation of hostilities, political dialogue and avoid the ongoing military confrontation. Further to this, we reiterate the African Union’s Contact Group’s concern with the political deadlock and the fighting that continues unabated in Libya. All mediation efforts must be aimed at a Libyan owned and Libya-led process with the support from the UN and the international community.


It is concerning that arms continue to flow into Libya despite the various resolutions adopted by this Council with respect to the arms embargo. Furthermore, South Africa remains concerned by foreign involvement which perpetuates the conflict and threatens the country’s sovereignty as well as its efforts to establish State authority across its entire territory. Most concerning however, is the blatant disregard of this Council’s authority in the enforcement of the arms embargo despite commitments made in Berlin early this year.


Notwithstanding, South Africa stands ready to support any initiative at strengthening the monitoring of the arms embargo, provided it complies with and falls within the necessary Security Council measures related to the arms embargo, in accordance with Resolutions 2473 (2019), 2509 (2020) and 2510 (2020).


Secondly, Mr President the Secretary-General has repeatedly emphasised, including in previous reports, that Libya cannot be considered a place of safety for the disembarkation of refugees and migrants rescued at sea under international law. However, refugees and migrants continued to be disembarked in Libya, mainly after interception by the Libyan Coast Guard.  Disembarkation in Libya remains dangerous.


Mr President,


South Africa remains concerned with the persistent violation of human rights as cited in the Secretary-General’s report, and as such remind Libyan political actors of their obligations under international human rights and international humanitarian law.


Thirdly, South Africa welcomes the cooperation between the UN, AU, the Arab League and the European Union in finding a lasting solution to the Libyan crisis. We reiterate the communique of the AU’s Contact Group on Libya of 19 May 2020 that stresses the need for strong cooperation with neighbouring countries. My delegation looks forward to close cooperation amongst all members of the Council in making the upcoming AU’s Inter-Libyan Reconciliation Conference scheduled for July 2020, a success.


Mr President,


We would like to thank UNSMIL under the leadership of former SRSG Salamé and Acting-SRSG Williams for their continued efforts to assist Libya to reach a political settlement and for assisting the country to put measures in place to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.


In conclusion, Mr President, an endorsement of the Secretary-General’s call for a global cease-fire and the lifting of economic measures by the Council will provide him political support for his efforts to promote peace amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This will also go a long way to enhance the Security Council’s credibility in this context.


I thank you.




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