LIBYA ON EDGE: UN Call For Humanitarian Truce Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

UNITED NATIONS (TURKISH JOURNAL) – By Janet Ekstract – The ongoing conflict in Libya has put the North African country on edge especially amidst a potential outbreak of the coronavirus in Tripoli. The first case of COVID-19 was reported March 24 and the United Nations along with 9 countries are pushing for a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds to allow health authorities to deal with the health situation in Libya.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, the UN along with Germany, France, the U.S., the UK, Algeria, Italy, the Netherlands as well as the European Union delegation to Libya and the governments of Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates called for a truce. In their statement they said: “They called on the warring parties to “declare an immediate, humanitarian cessation of hostilities … to allow local authorities to respond to the unprecedented public health challenge posed by COVID-19.” United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) also joined in urging all parties “to join forces immediately before it is too late to face this overwhelming, fast spreading threat.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his recent press briefing reiterated that those in “war-ravaged countries” must not be forgotten and that their health systems have collapsed. The secretary-general reminded everyone that health professionals, refugees and other displaced people tend to be targeted and the most vulnerable in areas of conflict worldwide. Guterres said: “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.”

The UN chief commented: “It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.” He added: “To warring parties I say, pull back from hostilities. Put aside mistrust and animosity. Silence the guns: stop the artillery, end the airstrikes. He added that “corridors for life saving aid” must be opened and that “windows for diplomacy” must begin. Guterres highlighted the fact that there are coalitions and dialogue gradually “taking shape among rival parties in some parts to enable joint approaches to COVID-19.” The secretary-general reiterated that we must “end the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging the world. It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. This is what our human family needs now, more than ever.”  

Meanwhile, Libya’s Health Ministry reported on Tuesday that Haftar who is receiving additional support from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has doubled attacks on certain regions in Tripoli including Gergaresh, Abu Salim, Mazawgha as well as Awlad Dayab near Mitiga Airport.  

In addition, just a day after Tuesday’s statement, Libya’s renegade warlord Khalifa Haftar who controls eastern Libya, announced his administration is imposing a curfew from 6pm-6am to assist in combating the spread of the virus. This excludes security and emergency personnel. In the meantime, The Rage Of Volcano Operation who monitors the situation, reported from their media office that cargo planes that were tracked are arriving from Abu-Dahabi purportedly to assist Haftar. Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj has been pushing back against Haftar, a former general in Gaddafi’s army whose goal is to capture Tripoli. Haftar instigated an oil blockade months ago and has refused to abide by previous ceasefire agreements. 

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