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UN Chief Urges Foreign Fighters Leave Libya by Saturday

UN Chief Urges Foreign Fighters Leave Libya by Saturday

Wednesday, 20 January, 2021 - 11:15
A member of the GNA forces heads out to the front line atop a military vehicle from Misrata, Libya in February 2020. (Reuters)

The UN chief is urging the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya by Saturday as called for in the Oct. 23 ceasefire agreement signed by the warring sides after years of fighting split the oil-rich North African nation in two.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also urges the Government of National Accord (GNA) that holds sway in the capital, Tripoli, in western Libya and the Libyan National Army (LNA) forces of commander Khalifa Haftar who run most of the east and the south, “to maintain their resolve in reaching a lasting political solution to the conflict, resolving economic issues and alleviating the humanitarian situation.”

In a report to the UN Security Council obtained Tuesday, Guterres welcomed the roadmap adopted by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum -- 75 representatives from the country’s political and social spectrum -- leading to presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 24, 2021.

Guterres encouraged countries backing both sides and the broader international community to support implementation of the ceasefire “without delay,” including “ensuring the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, and the full and unconditional respect of the Security Council arms embargo” against Libya.

He also urged the Security Council to give the UN political mission, known as UNSMIL, “a clear but flexible mandate” to support a Libyan-led mechanism to monitor implementation of the ceasefire. Diplomats said a council resolution outlining the UN role will likely be circulated in late January or early February.

In early January, Guterres recommended that international monitors be deployed to Libya under a UN umbrella to observe the October ceasefire agreement from a base in the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to the country’s major oil fields and export terminals.

He said an advance team should be sent to Tripoli as a first step to “provide the foundations for a scalable United Nations ceasefire monitoring mechanism based in Sirte.”

The secretary-general expressed concern at the continuing threat of terrorism and violent extremism in the Libyan region, saying that reunifying the country’s security institutions would contribute “to mitigating the risk” of ISIS and other terrorist and extremist groups reconstituting.

“Though operationally weakened as a result of a series of counter-terrorism operations, ISIS ... and a support network of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) remain a threat in Libya,” he said.

Guterres said the role of UN member nations and regional organizations, including the African Union, European Union and Arab League, “is critical.”

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit told the Security Council on Monday that recent events “could bring us closer to ending the division in this important Arab country.”

He urged that foreign fighters and mercenaries be removed by Saturday’s deadline, and urged a solution to the threat posed by armed groups and militias. He warned that unless this happens “the country will not enjoy any stability nor will any agreement on the transitional phase and the preparation for the upcoming elections survive.”

Aboul Gheit pledged Arab League support to the UN in monitoring the ceasefire agreement and in preparing for and observing December’s elections.

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