United Nations member states on Friday pushed warring factions in Libya to agree to a U.N.-brokered peace deal with a promise of international help to rebuild the country and a warning not to further delay an end to the conflict.
After months of stalled negotiations, U.N. envoy Bernardino Leon handed the Libyan parties a final draft of a Sept. 21 peace accord aimed at ending fighting between two rival governments and their armed backers.
"There is no time to waste. We all know the threats that further hesitation will bring," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a meeting on Libya on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly.
"If they make the right decisions ... if they forge a true government of national unity, and if they begin to govern as their people need them to govern, we, the international community, will be behind them and beside them each and every step of the way. They can count on that," he said.
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday that the world should have done more to avoid a leadership vacuum in Libya, where Islamic State militants have been able to gain a foothold in the city of Sirte.
Leon hopes the factions will sign the deal by Oct. 20, when the mandate of the elected parliament ends. The conflict has pushed the North African state to the brink of collapse four years after the fall of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.
"As we work to ensure this text is accepted by the Libyans, let us be clear: All those who choose to remain outside this framework will be responsible for the consequences and suffering that will ensue," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said those who believed they could delay a deal any longer were wrong.
"The international community cannot accept any further delays," he said. "We are with you, we would never desert the Libyan people."
The chaos in Libya has allowed smugglers to profit by shipping migrants and asylum seekers to Europe. Tens of thousands of people, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, have tried to cross the Mediterranean this year, dangerously packed into small unsuitable vessels. Thousands have died.
Britain is pushing the 15-member United Nations Security Council to authorize naval operations aimed at seizing and disposing of vessels operated by human traffickers in the high seas off Libya.
U.N. diplomats said negotiations were continuing with the African members of the council - Chad, Nigeria and Angola - who were wary of the resolution being adopted under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which allows the use of force.
Britain's Minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, said Leon's peace accord was a "fair deal."
"Any party that seeks to delay the process or refuses to accept the agreement risks being left behind," he said. "Neither the Libyan people nor the international community will wait any longer."