In surprise Libya trip, U.N. chief calls for halt to fighting
Ban Ki-moon's visit Saturday is his first to the war-torn North African oil producer
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon landed Libya's capital of Tripoli and is due to meet political parties in a bid to bolster talks aimed at ending spiraling unrest in the North African nation.
Shortly after his arrival, he called for all sides in the conflict-plagued country to stop fighting.
"Let me be clear: if violent confrontations do not cease immediately, if sustainable peace is not restored, prosperity and a better life will be a distant dream," Ban said according to an official transcript of his remarks.
Ban's visit Saturday is his first to Libya - the highest-level visit of a foreign diplomat for three months - and comes after the U.N. launched a dialogue late last month to mediate between the warring Libyan groups.
He called on “all groups to stop fighting”, referring specifically to forces loyal to retired general Khalifa Haftar and the Islamist Ansar al-Sharia militia group that he has been battling in the eastern city of Benghazi since May, Agence France-Presse reported.
Ban also called for political dialogue to bolster the legitimacy of the parliament elected on June 25.
The international community recognises the new parliament, but the militia groups controlling most of the capital Tripoli and Islamists who hold much of Benghazi dispute its legitimacy.
The majority faction in the legislature has been meeting in the far eastern town of Tobruk near the border with Egypt.
Ban urged the formation of a national unity cabinet, stressing the importance of “a strong government able to implement decisions” in the country, where militias control swathes of territory.
“There is no alternative to dialogue,” Ban said ahead of the meeting of rival MPs, also attended by the incoming EU foreign policy chief, Italian Foreign Minister Federica, as well as envoys from Britain, France and Malta.
The U.N. mission chief in Libya, Bernardino Leon, managed to bring the rival factions together for talks in the remote oasis town of Ghadames on September 29.
At the time, he hailed their discussions as “very constructive and very positive.”
(With Reuters, AFP and the Associated Press)