UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Libya and Egypt asked the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday to lift an arms embargo on Libya, impose a naval blockade on areas not under government control and help build the country’s army to tackle Islamic State and other militants.
Libya has descended into factional fighting, leaving the country almost lawless nearly four years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. Two competing governments backed by militia brigades are scrambling for control of the oil-producing country and the chaos has created havens for Islamist militants.
The Security Council met to discuss Libya after Islamic State released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians. Egypt responded to the killings with air strikes on Monday on militant camps, training sites and arms storage areas in Libya.
Jordan told council members during closed door consultations after the meeting that it planned to circulate a draft resolution later on Wednesday, diplomats said. Jordan said the text would propose lifting the arms embargo on the Libyan government, condemn attempts to provide weapons to other parties and support Libyan efforts to combat terrorism.
“Libya needs a decisive stance from the international community to help us build or national army’s capacity and this would come through a lifting of the embargo on weapons ... so as to deal with this rampant terrorism,” Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Dayri told the Security Council.
The Libyan government is already allowed to import weapons and related materiel with the approval of a Security Council committee overseeing the embargo imposed in 2011 when Gaddafi forces cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.
The Security Council committee has long urged Libya to improve monitoring of its weapons over concerns that some government arms were being diverted to militant groups.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri backed the call for the arms embargo to be lifted and also said a naval blockade should be put in place in areas not under government control to stop weapons reaching militants.
He also said states wanting to help Libya confront terrorism should be allowed to do so as long as it is with the approval and coordination of the “legitimate Libyan government.”
Egyptian President President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had on Tuesday called for a U.N. resolution to mandate an international coalition to intervene in Libya.
U.N. special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, said that Islamic State and other militants can only be defeated with a united Libyan government in place that has strong international support.
The United Nations is mediating between the rival factions to get them to forge a unity government and end hostilities.
Libya’s internationally recognized government is based in the eastern city of Bayda after its rivals seized power in the capital Tripoli. Egypt supports the Bayda government, but also said it backed Leon’s efforts.
“In Libya, Islamic State has found fertile ground in the growing post revolution political instability, capitalizing also on the weakness of state institutions and state security sector,” Leon said.
Italy has called for urgent international action to halt Libya’s slide into chaos. At the Security Council, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi repeated Italy’s promise to help monitor a ceasefire and train local armed forces within the framework of a U.N. mission.
Editing by Grant McCool