VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis appealed on Sunday for both sides in the Libyan civil war to seek peace, urging the international community to facilitate talks and protect refugees and migrants he said were victims of cruelty.
In an impassioned plea during his noon address in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said he was pained by the situation in Libya, which has had no stable central authority since dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown by NATO-backed rebels in 2011.
For more than five years Libya has had rival parliaments and governments in the east and the west, with streets often controlled by armed groups and sporadic fighting.
“Please! I urge international bodies and those who have political and military responsibilities to restart, with conviction and resolve, the search for a path towards an end to violence, leading to peace, stability and unity in the country,” he said.
Egypt announced a new initiative for Libya on Saturday. Meanwhile Russia and Turkey, who support opposing sides in Libya, have postponed ministerial-level talks on the conflict.
Libya is divided between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the rival Government of National Accord (GNA) with nations split over their support of the LNA or the GNA.
In an apparent reference to the coronavirus pandemic, Francis said the already precarious health conditions of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers had been aggravated, making them even more vulnerable to exploitation and violence.
“There is cruelty. I call on the international community – Please! – to take their plight to heart … Brothers and sisters, we all have responsibility in this. No-one can consider themselves dispensed from this,” he said.
Human rights groups such as Doctors Without Borders have said people in migrant detention centers in Libya are being held in harmful conditions and exposed to abuses.
Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky
Image: Pope Francis leads a traditional Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) feast Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, June 14, 2020. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS