Fewer Libya arms embargo breaches but foreign fighters ‘presence’ remain: UN panel

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Fewer violations of the arms embargo on Libya have occurred this year as compared with 2020, but the “continuing presence” of foreign fighters is “still a serious threat,” UN experts said in a confidential report.

Nonetheless, while the “intense pace of delivery” of banned weapons has abated, “the arms embargo remains totally ineffective,” the experts tasked with monitoring the embargo said in an interim confidential report recently given to the Security Council and seen Tuesday by AFP.

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For the study, which covers January to November 2021, the experts traveled twice to the north African country, in April and again in September.

For the first time since 2017, they were able to go to the eastern city of Benghazi, the stronghold of Khalifa Haftar, who is running for president in the election set for December 24.

The elections come as part of a push to end a decade of violence in oil-rich Libya following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed former ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

An October 2020 ceasefire brought to an end a fierce year-long battle sparked by Haftar’s bid to seize the capital Tripoli.

It also led to a fragile unity government taking office in March, with a mandate to take the country to elections.

But the UN experts, who said they also traveled to France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Tunisia to complete their work, note that the majority of Libya is still controlled by armed groups.

“Based on the 2020 transfers, arms stockpiles remain high and sufficient to sustain any future conflict,” the experts said.

“The control of the supply chains by some member states continues, thus significantly hindering detection, disruption, or interdiction” of arms deliveries, they added, without naming any offending countries.

Though the opposing sides in Libya have asked foreign fighters to leave the country, the experts say they are “maintaining foreign fighters among their forces, including nationals from Chad, Sudan and Syria as well as from Russian private military companies.”

The United Nations has previously estimated that 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters are deployed in Libya, including from the Russian private security firm Wagner.

“The panel has no evidence of any large scale withdrawals taking place to date,” the experts said.

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