Libya conflict: US Pentagon calls for an end to involvement of foreign mercenaries

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The United States has called for an “immediate end” to foreign mercenaries’ involvement in the Libyan conflict and for all sides to return to the political process, a Pentagon spokesperson said Tuesday.

Turkey has been heavily criticized by the international community in recent weeks for sending fighters from Syria to fight in Libya alongside Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA).

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France and Egypt have lambasted Ankara in recent days for its destabilizing behavior in the north African country.

Cairo has also threatened military action in response to Turkey’s intervention.

“As far as Libya, the United States supports an immediate end to external interference and the involvement of foreign mercenaries in the conflict in Libya and wants all sides to return to the political process,” Department of Defense spokesperson, Commander Candice Tresch, told Al Arabiya English.

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Separately, a State Department spokesperson told Al Arabiya English that all sides in Libya should respect the UN arms embargo, while it also criticized “escalating” foreign military intervention.

“The United States opposes escalating foreign military intervention in Libya, on all sides,” the spokesperson told Al Arabiya English when asked about the official US stance regarding the Libyan conflict.

Washington has called for an immediate ceasefire and said that “respect of the UN arms embargo by all parties is imperative.”

Turkey has sent mercenaries and armored vehicles and arms to Libya as its involvement has increased significantly.

This drew the ire of Egypt and the rest of the Arab League, which has criticized the Turkish intervention.

Although it called for a ceasefire earlier this month, Egypt has changed its stance in recent days as Turkey steps up its military campaign to back the GNA.

After months of stalemate, the clashes intensified as foreign backers of both sides increasingly intervened.

Cairo has also threatened to intervene militarily with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordering his army to stand prepared while Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry has said that “it is time … for serious efforts to stabilize Libya.”

On Tuesday, the US urged all parties to commit to a ceasefire and resume negotiations “immediately,” the State Department spokesperson said.

Asked about ways to move forward, the US spokesperson said: “We must build on progress made through the UN’s 5+5 talks and the Berlin process.”

In January, Germany attempted to resolve the situation when it invited Libya’s Fayez al-Sarraj and General Khalifa Haftar.

As for the Egyptian initiative, on June 11, US Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker said that “the productive parts” of it were welcome. However, he said the UN-led process and the Berlin process were “really the … most productive frameworks.”

Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA), walked out of the Berlin peace talks om January. Sarraj heads the Turkish-backed GNA.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C), Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar (R) and the Libyan Parliament speaker Aguila Saleh arriving for a joint press conference in Cairo. (Egyptian Presidency/Handout)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C), Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar (R) and the Libyan Parliament speaker Aguila Saleh arriving for a joint press conference in Cairo. (Egyptian Presidency/Handout)

Further criticizing Turkey’s role, the LNA Tuesday criticized and rejected what it called Turkey’s plans for the “new Ottoman colonialism.”

Meanwhile, sources familiar with the ongoing Libyan conflict told Al Arabiya that Turkish forces, alongside the GNA, tortured several individuals it had captured from the LNA in recent days. According to one of the sources, Ankara also sent more mercenaries in the last few days from Syria to several different areas in Libya.

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