NEW YORK, 26 March 2021 – Withdrawing all foreign forces from Libya is the best way to bolster the country’s new unity government, UN peace envoy Jan Kubis told world powers Wednesday.
Instead, foreign fighters and mercenaries are digging defenseive positions in the country, Kubis told the UN Security Council.
Despite the Security Council imposing sanctions and repeatedly calling on foreign forces to leave the country, an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries from Turkey, Syria, Russia and elsewhere are still in Libya.
The withdrawal of these forces “will go a long way in reconstituting the unity and sovereignty of the country… healing the deep wounds caused by many years of internal strife, active conflict and foreign interference,” the Slovak diplomat told the Security Council during his first briefing to the world body.
Fighters supporting either of the two main factions in Libya are reportedly digging in.
There are “ongoing fortifications and the setting up of defensive positions” along the front lines of Libya’s conflict, between the coastal city of Sirte and Jufra in central Libya, Kubis told the Security Council.
Any withdrawals have been largely ceremonial and, where effected, have been in insufficient numbers.
A group of 120 pro-Turkey mercenaries from Syria were flown out of Tripoli’s Mitiga airport, the London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Tuesday.
Turkey has been accused of deploying several thousand mercenaries to the war-torn country to bolster its support for the U.N.-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in its fight against Libyan general Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).
The Council is also reviewing a report from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres calling for an expansion of a team of unarmed UN monitors to track adherence to a ceasefire in the area around Sirte.
This will allow the UN peace envoy to focus on ensuring success for the new Libyan interim prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who took office last March 16.
His government replaces two warring administrations that since 2015 have ruled a Libya divided between eastern and western regions.
Under a roadmap agreed last year, the new interim prime minister will be in place until general elections are held next December 24.
Kubis has urged Libyan lawmakers to pass necessary legislation by July “at the latest” so that the elections, which have been delayed for three years, can be held as planned.
France, which along with the United States, led the NATO invasion that ousted the government of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, will reopen its embassy in the Libyan capital to signal French support for the new interim government.
On Tuesday, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter said Washington would reopen its embassy in Libya “as soon as the security situation permits”.
“It’s time to press forward and to help Libya’s Cabinet with the hard work ahead of pulling the country together,” Porter added.
Libya faces huge challenges beyond the presence of foreign forces and mercenaries.
Kubis has warned that “over four million people, including childen, may face being denied clean water and sanitation if immediate solutions are not found and implemented” to address “acute” shortages of electricity.
The north African country’s temperatures are expected to skyrocket in the summer.