The UN Security Council is all set to meet on Wednesday on the crisis in Libya, where fighting has derailed UN-led efforts to prepare for elections. However, the UN will be holding urgent closed-door consultations only. “UN envoy Ghassan Salame will brief the council on his decision to postpone a national conference aimed at drawing up an election roadmap,” diplomats said.
Thousands of people have fled Tripoli after forces under the command of Khalifa Haftar, who controls part of eastern Libya, launched an offensive last week to take the capital.
“We cannot ask people to take part in the conference during gunfire and air strikes,” Salame said Tuesday in announcing the postponement of the conference that was due to open on Sunday.
Tripoli is controlled by a UN-backed unity government, but its authority is not recognised by a rival administration in the east, allied with Haftar.
Earlier, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the military escalation near Tripoli and called for an immediate halt to the fighting in Libya. The appeal followed an air attack by the forces of commander Khalifa Haftar on the Mitiga airport east of the capital. Guterres “urges the immediate halt of all military operations in order to de-escalate the situation and prevent an all-out conflict,” said a UN statement.
He “strongly condemns the military escalation and ongoing fighting in and around Tripoli, including the aerial attack today by a Libyan National Army (LNA) aircraft against Mitiga airport.”
The air strike shut down Tripoli’s only functioning airport as fighting raged around the capital and thousands fled.
Haftar’s self-styled LNA claimed Monday’s air strike against the airport, with a spokesman saying the attack targeted a MiG-23 military plane and a helicopter.
Haftar launched the offensive on Tripoli last week just as Guterres was in Libya to push for a political deal on holding elections.
A UN-backed unity government controls the capital, but its authority is not recognised by a parallel administration in the east of the country.
As fighting escalated over the weekend, the United Nations called for a humanitarian pause to allow civilians trapped in the violence to escape, but the appeal fell on deaf ears.