Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 7 October 2014:
Bernardino Leon, the head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya has delivered his bleakest . . .[restrict]assessment yet, warning that ISIS jihadists are already present in the country and awaiting their opportunity.
“The jihadists are already here,” the UNSMIL chief told Italian newspaper La Repubblica. “If a real political dialogue does not start in Libya soon, there is only one thing that will be certain: the country will be an open field for Isis”.
Bernardino warned that Libyan militiamen who had fought in Syria and Iraq were now back in the country. “In order to consolidate, they just need the current chaos and lack of political control to continue. Then they will know what to do” he said.
Isis and Al-Qaeda were busy transferring their “brand” to Libya which in turn would promote further radicalisation. He cited groups in Derna and in the south on the border with Algeria which had been involved in the January 2013 attack on the Algerian desert gas-processing plant at In Amenas
Libya, said Bernardino, was a divided country that had emerged for a revolution still fighting. It was not at peace. But it was an important country for Europe and a vital country for Italy.
“Putting an end to this conflict is difficult, “ he explained, “because the protagonists are hundreds of militias without a hierarchical relationship between them.” He continued that nevertheless, UNSMIL sought to explain to all factions and all militias that they must comply with international law. Otherwise sanctions, included targeted individual sanctions were already in place and would be implemented.
“We are ready to identfy these people, ” said Bernardino “to freeze their assets, current accounts and the houses they own around the word. We are ready to deny them freedom to travel and to include them on the list of those who have violated human rights and can stand accused of being war criminals”.
The UNSMIL chief repeated that were was no military solution to Libya’s crisis.
“Nobody is strong enough to control the country alone, even with strong support from outside. Prolonging the war will only lead to more chaos and we cannot afford that. That is why we are asking all international players not to support the fight, but to support the dialogue, which is the only possible solution”. Bernardino then made a point of praising the “positive role” that Libya’s neighbours were playing in supporting a negotiated settlement.
He said that he did not believe that the current situation in the country was irreversible. “Unity and the territorial integrity of Libya are crucial. Everybody knows that there are historical differences between the east, west and south of the country. But I am convinced that the vast majority of Libyans want unity. And I believe that it is still possible to keep this country together. The main message is that right now, a meaningful dialogue has to begin”. [/restrict]