UN reiterates call for withdrawal of foreign mercenaries, forces from Libya

The commission also decided to “meet in Sirte as soon as possible” and make the central coastal city its headquarters, Williams added.
Wednesday 04/11/2020
A view of the joint military commission meeting, November 3,  in Ghedames, Libya. (Facebook)
A view of the joint military commission meeting, November 3, in Ghedames, Libya. (Facebook)

TRIPOLI –Rival Libyan military officers have agreed on a roadmap for implementing a ceasefire deal reached last month, acting UN Envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams said Tuesday.

The announcement came after a meeting of a joint military commission to discuss the implementation of the deal opened Monday on home soil for the first time.

The sides agreed to “establish a military subcommittee to oversee the withdrawal of military forces to their respective bases and the departure of foreign forces from the front lines,” Williams said.

The commission also decided to “meet in Sirte as soon as possible” and make the central coastal city its headquarters, Williams added.

Sirte has been on the front line of recent conflict since mid-June.

“This is the beginning of a process that is going to require determination, courage, confidence and a lot of work,” Williams said.

She added the agreement also called for “military deals on training inside Libya” to be frozen and for foreign trainees to leave the country. It did not name a particular country but apparently referred to Turkey, which has sent forces and mercenaries to train and fight alongside forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) in the west.

“The onus, the responsibility is on the shoulders of those countries and elements that are responsible for bringing those mercenaries and forces to Libya; they must respect the Libyan request,” Williams said.

The meeting follows a “permanent” ceasefire agreement signed by the warring factions in Switzerland last month, intended to pave the way towards a political solution to the country’s grinding conflict.

Talks are taking place in the remote desert oasis of Ghadames, some 465 kilometres (290 miles) south-west of the capital Tripoli and near Libya’s borders with both Algeria and Tunisia — far from the power bases of either side.

Williams said that a meeting on reunifying the Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) would be held on November 16 at the Brega terminal, while air links would be restored “immediately” with Ghadames and with Sebha in the south.

Libya’s oil production, a vital source of income, has been repeatedly halted as various groups seized and blockaded key installations and export terminals.

The Guards, under the control of Libya’s defence ministry before the country’s 2011 revolution, have since morphed into armed groups with shifting allegiances.

The commission also urged the UN Security Council to “quickly adopt a binding resolution to implement the Geneva ceasefire agreement,” Williams added.

Libya, with Africa’s largest proven crude oil reserves, has been wracked by conflict for nearly a decade, since the overthrow and killing of longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

A view of the joint military commission meeting, November 3,  in Ghedames, Libya.( Facebook)
A view of the joint military commission meeting, November 3,  in Ghedames, Libya.( Facebook)

It has since been dominated by armed groups and divided between two bitterly-opposed administrations: the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) based in the capital Tripoli, and a rival administration in the east backed by the Libyan National Army (LNA) and its commander, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

The talks in Ghadames are part of long-running efforts to broker peace.

Haftar, backed by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive on Tripoli in April 2019, but was beaten back in June by the GNA with military support from Turkey.

Warring factions returned to the negotiating table in September in UN-supported talks, with negotiations being held in Morocco, Egypt and Switzerland.

On November 9, the political leaders are due to hold face-to-face talks in Tunisia.