Libyan military graduates loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) after announcing a military training agreement with Turkey, in Tajoura, southeast of Tripoli on Nov. 21, 2020. (AFP)

Withdrawal of foreign mercenaries from Libya has ‘stalled,’ says UN envoy

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The UN envoy for Libya, Jan Kubis, told the Security Council Friday that progress on issues such as the withdrawal of foreign mercenaries and reopening the road connecting the country’s east with its west had “stalled.”

Kubis, speaking to the Council via video, warned that the delays could undermine a ceasefire agreement between the country’s warring sides.

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“Progress on key issues such as the reopening of the coastal road between Sirte and Misrata and the start of the withdrawal of foreign mercenaries, fighters and foreign forces has stalled,” he said.

“Further delays in reopening the road work against efforts to build trust between the two sides and could undermine efforts to advance the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, to advance the political transition,” he said.

US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield also criticized the lack of political progress.

“It’s time for the Libyan leadership to clarify the constitutional basis for the election (planned for December 24), pass the required legislation and ensure elections are not delayed,” she said, calling for progress before July 1.

Kubis also said the continued presence of foreign fighters and armed groups “is a significant threat not just to Libya security, but to the region as a whole.”

North Africa Arab League, UN, EU, AU demand foreign troops withdraw from Libya 

He said it was “critical” to ensure “an orderly departure” and disarm them.

Thomas-Greenfield agreed, saying that “external actors involved in the conflict must cease their military interference and begin to withdraw from Libya immediately.”

“There is no room for interpretation here. All means all,” she continued.

According to the UN, more than 20,000 foreign mercenaries and military personnel are still in Libya. They include Turkish, Russian, Sudanese and Chadian mercenaries.

Unlike the Russian mercenaries who supported the authorities in the east of the country, Turkey says its troops sent to Tripoli were sent under a bilateral agreement with the government, implying that they are not affected by a request for foreign troops to leave.

The fear that armed groups will leave Libya to deploy in the region was again raised by several Security Council members, who recalled the recent destabilization in Chad that led to the death of its president Idriss Deby.

“We fear that the guns that fall silent in Libya will resonate more deafeningly in the Sahel, which is undergoing its second wave of impact from the Libyan crisis,” said Niger’s ambassador, Abdou Abarry.

Libya’s ambassador to the UN, Taher El Sonni, recalled that his country asked all states “to respect” what has been agreed in the Security Council resolutions, “in particular the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries in order to ensure that the state asserts its sovereignty over its territory.”

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