Pro-Ankara Syrian militia deployed in Libya have started to withdraw, a French diplomatic source said on Thursday, describing the move as “encouraging”.
“This is one of the encouraging gestures that we have seen. There are movements (of the Syrian militia forces) that have been seen and noted,” said the source, who asked not to be named.
The Syrian militia forces’ presence in Libya alongside Turkish troops has repeatedly angered France, which has called for all mercenaries to leave the country including Russians.
Libya’s new unity government called Thursday for the “immediate” withdrawal of all foreign mercenaries from the war-torn country which is headed for elections by year’s end.
The North African country descended into chaos after dictator Moammar Gadhafi was toppled and killed in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, resulting in multiple forces vying for power.
Fighting only came to a halt last summer, and a formal ceasefire in October was followed by the establishment last week of a new unity government led by interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.
The presence of an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries on Libya’s territory is seen as a threat to the UN-backed transition leading to December 24 elections.
“We reiterate the need for the departure of all mercenaries from Libya, and immediately,” Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush said at a Tripoli news conference joined by her French, German and Italian counterparts.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian echoed her call.
“The departure of the mercenaries is essential for the Libyan state to assert its sovereignty,” Le Drian he told the news conference.
The three European diplomats were in Tripoli in a show of support for the newly formed Government of National Unity, or GNU.