Former Libya envoy accuses Security Council of ‘hypocrisy’

CAIRO (AP) — A former U.N. envoy to Libya has accused the Security Council of “hypocrisy” and of undermining his efforts to bring peace to the war-torn North African country.

In a podcast interview aired Tuesday, Ghassan Salame said the majority of the U.N. Security Council supported the military offensive launched last year by Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter to capture the capital, Tripoli, from the internationally recognized government.

“You are at the same time being stabbed in the back by most of the Security Council, because the day Hiftar attacked Tripoli he had most of them supporting him, while you are being criticized by the Libyans for not stopping him,” said Salame, referring to himself in his first interview since resigning from his post in March.

Salame spoke to The Mediator’s Studio, a newly launched podcast from the Oslo Forum, a series of annual retreats for international peace mediators and top decision makers.

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Since 2015, Libya has been divided into two governments: one in the east, allied with Hifter, and another in the west. The Tripoli-based government has the backing of Italy, Turkey and Qatar, while Hifter is supported by Russia, France, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Salame resigned from his U.N. post amid an escalation in fighting in Libya and just days after he announced the near breakdown of a shaky truce between Libya’s warring parties. At the time, he said his health could no longer “allow this rate of stress.”

His resignation also came a few weeks after a Libya peace summit in Berlin, where world leaders agreed to uphold a U.N. arms embargo and to end military backing for Libya’s warring factions to pave the way for a long-lasting cease-fire — a commitment that Salame discredited in his interview.

Salame said the day after the Berlin conference he had pictures on his desk of weapons shipments as well as mercenaries and planes sent to Libyan soil by Security Council member states.

Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, who also serves as president of the Security Council for July, agreed with Salame on the continuing violation of the arms embargo by member states.

“I can only say … the international community clearly must not give up. We have to continue to try to implement the results of the Berlin conference, ” Heusgen said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“With regard to the delivery of weapons, it is a shame that openly countries that are — some that are members of the Security Council — participating, participated, also in the Berlin process are openly delivering weapons to the parties,” he added.

The Libyan conflict has recently turned into a proxy war.

In early June, Tripoli-based forces with Turkish support gained the upper hand in the war after retaking the capital’s airport, all main entrance and exit points to the city and a string of key towns near Tripoli. They threatened to retake the strategic city of Sirte, which could allow them to gain control of oil fields and facilities in the south that Hifter seized earlier this year as part of his offensive on Tripoli. In response, Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi warned that any attempt to attack Sirte would trigger a direct Egyptian military involvement in the conflict.

The U.S. military has also accused the Russians of interfering with the conflict by sending military jets and mercenary fighters to back Hifter’s troops.

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Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer in New York contributed to this report.

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