The UN Security Council voted unanimously on Thursday to lift the no-fly zone over Libya on Monday and end military action to protect civilians, acting swiftly following the death of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and the interim government’s declaration of the country’s liberation.
The council authorized the actions on March 17 in response to an Arab League request to try to halt Qaddafi’s military, which was advancing against rebels and their civilian supporters. The NATO bombing campaign that followed was critical in helping the rebels oust Qaddafi from power in August.
“This marks a really important milestone in the transition in Libya,” British UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said. “It marks the way from the military phase towards the formation of an inclusive government, the full participation of all sectors of society and for the Libyan people to choose their own future.”
In Berlin, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance yesterday would confirm its earlier, preliminary decision to end operations on Monday.
He said after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Thursday’s UN resolution “reflects that we have fully accomplished our mandate to protect the civilian population of Libya, so now we have firm ground for terminating our operations as we decided to do a week ago.”
The alliance is ready to assist the new Libyan government in the transformation to democracy, particularly in the areas of defense and security sector reforms, Fogh Rasmussen said. “I wouldn’t expect new tasks beyond that.”
The UN Security Council adopted the resolution a day after Libyan Deputy UN Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi told the council Libyans wanted their sovereignty restored, but asked members to hold up action until the transitional government made a formal request, which he hoped would come by Monday.
The UN’s most powerful body rejected his request, deciding that there was no need for UN-authorized military action following the death of Qaddafi on Oct. 20 and the National Transitional Council’s announcement of liberation on Sunday.
The resolution ends the UN authorization for military action just before midnight local time on Monday, which means that Libya will regain control of its airspace and all military operations effective Tuesday.
The UN Security Council said it looks forward “to the swift establishment of an inclusive, representative transitional government of Libya” committed to democracy, good governance, rule of law, national reconciliation and respect for human rights.
It strongly urged Libyan authorities “to refrain from reprisals,” take measures to prevent others from carrying out reprisals and to protect the population, “including foreign nationals and African migrants.”
Those two groups have been targeted by anti-Qaddafi forces because they were seen as supporting the late dictator’s regime.
Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who earlier argued that the resolution authorizing military action was misused by NATO to justify months of airstrikes against Qaddafi’s regime, circulated a resolution last week calling for an end to military operations on Monday.
Churkin welcomed the council’s unanimous vote, but told -reporters that “numerous violations have taken place” in implementing the Libya resolution and “serious lessons should be drawn for the Security Council.”