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UN urges foreign fighters and mercenaries to leave Libya

February 9, 2021 GMT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council called the establishment of a transitional government in Libya “an important milestone” Tuesday and urged all countries with foreign forces and mercenaries in the North African nation to withdraw them “without further delay” as the divided North African nation moves toward elections in December.

The Libya conflict, which began with a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 that toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi and split the country, has been one of the most intractable remnants of the “Arab spring” a decade ago.

The agreement on a three-member interim presidency council and prime minister Friday has been seen as a major — if uncertain — step toward unifying Libya, which has rival governments in the east and west, each side backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers.

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The council called on the interim executives “to agree swiftly on the formation of a new, inclusive government,” make preparations for presidential and parliamentary elections planned for Dec. 24, improve services for the Libyan people, “and launch a comprehensive national reconciliation process.”

The presidential statement, approved by all 15 council members, is a step below a resolution and becomes part of the council’s record.

The latest upsurge in violence in Libya began in April 2019 when the commander of eastern-based forces, Khalifa Hifter, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive seeking to capture the capital, Tripoli. His campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support for the U.N.-supported government in Tripoli and the west with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.

This led to a cease-fire agreement in October that called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries in three months and adherence to a U.N. arms embargo, provisions which have not been met.

Security Council members called on all parties to implement the cease-fire agreement “in full,” to quickly withdraw foreign forces and mercenaries, and fully comply with the arms embargo.

Last Thursday, the council requested Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to swiftly deploy an advance team to Libya as a first step to sending monitors to observe the cease-fire between the warring parties.

Guterres recommended in late December that international monitors be sent under a U.N. umbrella to observe the cease-fire from a base in the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’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 cease-fire monitoring mechanism based in Sirte.”

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The council statement adopted Tuesday “underlines the importance of a credible and effective Libyan-led cease-fire monitoring mechanism under U.N. auspices” and welcomes the swift deployment of an advance team.

“The Security Council looks forward to receiving proposals on the tasks and scale of the cease-fire monitoring mechanism from the secretary-general,” the presidential statement said.

The council thanked American diplomat Stephanie Williams, the former acting U.N. special envoy for Libya, for her role in getting the Libyan rivals to agree to the cease-fire, December elections and the transitional government.

Former Slovak foreign minister Jan Kubis, a veteran U.N. diplomat, took over Monday as the U.N. special representative for Libya. His office said he has spoken with key players in the east and west, the president-designate of the presidency council and the prime minister-designate.

The Security Council reaffirmed its strong commitment “to the U.N.-facilitated Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process and to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Libya.” Kubis pledged to build “on the momentum generated by positive developments achieved in the past months.”