Libyan Prime Minister, “hopeful”, foreign mercenaries will retire soon | Conflict news


Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah talks to Al Jazeera about reconciliation, elections and renegade general Khalifa Haftar.

The head of Libya’s unity government has told Al Jazeera that he hopes thousands of foreign mercenaries will soon withdraw from the country.

Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah said in an interview with Al Jazeera, which will be screened on Wednesday, that after talks with several countries, there were “hopeful signs” that foreign armed groups would leave Libya.

The presence of some 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries on Libyan territory is estimated to be a threat to the UN-backed transition that will lead to the December 24 elections.

Libya’s unity government has been going on for months demanded his “immediate” withdrawal.

The North African country fell into chaos after dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and assassinated in a 2011 NATO-backed insurgency, which sparked multiple forces competing for power.

The fighting only stopped last year and a formal ceasefire in October was followed by the establishment of a unity government led by interim Prime Minister Dbeibah in March.

Unification of state institutions

The unity government, which replaced two rival administrations that had ruled the country’s eastern and western regions, has also prioritized reconciliation efforts ahead of national elections, Dbeibah said.

Dbeibah told Al Jazeera that while 80% of state institutions have been unified, the military institution remains divided. He added, however, that the 5 + 5 Joint Military Commission was working on unifying the military.

The commission is made up of five senior military officials of the UN-recognized National Accord Government (GNA) in Tripoli, and five by its rival, the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA), of the renegade military commander oriental, Khalifa Haftar.

Dbeibah said his unity government does not coordinate matters with Haftar, but all coordination is carried out in Benghazi with the help of police services and the mayor.

He added that the elections will be held in time.

“We want the constitution, the elections and the end of the transition phase,” he told Al Jazeera.

Logistics issues

Commenting on a cabinet meeting in the city of Benghazi which was postponed last month, Dbeibah said there were logistical problems behind the cancellation. He promised that a cabinet meeting will be held in Benghazi soon.

Last month, sources told Al Jazeera that the cabinet meeting was postponed after Haftar-loyal gunmen prevented a government delegation from entering the city.

They described Haftar-loyal gunmen and civilians detaining Dbeibah security details after his plane landed at Benin airport.

The move forced the delegation, which planned to prepare for Dbeibah’s first visit to Benghazi since taking office in March, to return to Tripoli.

The incident revealed continued friction between rival camps in Tripoli in the west and Benghazi in the east in the Haftar LNA stronghold.

Rival administrations were formed in the west and east in 2014, further dividing the country already besieged by the chaos and violence that followed the 2011 uprising against Gaddafi.

Dbeibah was appointed in March to lead the new Government of National Unity (GNU) through a UN-facilitated process aimed at bringing peace and stability to Libya with the reunification of state institutions and elections in December.

GNU was approved by the parliament based in the east and the administrations of Tripoli and Benghazi, which peacefully handed over their powers.

But the war-ravaged country faces a myriad of challenges.

In addition to the presence of armed groups, disputes over the flow and distribution of Libya’s significant oil revenues continue, parliament has opposed Dbeibah’s budget plans and the main road crossing the front lines remains closed.

Dbeibah also told Al Jazeera that he was still committed to the 2019 GNA maritime agreement between Libya and Turkey, which sought to boost Turkish maritime rights and influence in the eastern Mediterranean and angered Greece and Cyprus.

“We do not agree with Greece on the assessment of the Libyan-Turkish maritime agreement. It serves Libyans and we will not give it up,” he said.

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