The UN special envoy to Libya warned the Security Council that progress on the key issue of the withdrawal of foreign mercenaries and fighters from Libya has stalled and their continued presence is a threat not only to Libya. , but for the North African region.
Jan Kubis said on Friday the recent disturbing events in neighboring Chad, where the rebels were blamed for the assassination of President Idriss Deby last month, recalling the relationship between the security situation in Libya and the security and stability of the region.
“The high mobility of armed and terrorist groups, but also of migrants and economic refugees, often through channels operated by organized criminal networks and other local agents across uncontrolled borders, only increases the risks of fostering instability and insecurity. in Libya and the region, ”he said.
Kubis said the UN mission in Libya, known as UNSMIL, reported “the continued presence of foreign elements, mercenaries and goods, thus consolidating the division of Libya.”
Libya has been shattered by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled ruler Muammar Gaddafi for a long time in 2011 and split the oil-rich country between a UN-recognized government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east of the country, with the support of each of them. armed groups and foreign governments.
In April 2019, East-based commander Khalifa Haftar and his forces, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive to try to capture Tripoli. His 14-month campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its support for the UN-recognized government with advanced military equipment, troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.
An October ceasefire led to the formation of a joint interim government, which took power in March, and has the task of grouping the divided country and leading it through the presidential and parliamentary elections of 24 of December.
“Efforts to build trust”
With regard to the UN arms embargo against Libya, which UN experts recently reported has been continuously violated, Kubis said the UN mission continues to receive reports of charges of weapons and military supplies reaching military bases in the west, east and south.
UNSMIL also continues to receive reports of fortifications and defensive positions being established along the Sirte-Jufra axis, as well as air force training activities, he said.
Kubis said UNSMIL also reported that progress in opening the road from the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to the country’s major oil fields and export terminals, is stalled.
“More delays in reopening road work against efforts to build trust between the two sides and could undermine efforts to move forward with the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, to advance the political transition,” he said. warn.
The October truce calling for the departure of foreign mercenaries and fighters in 90 days remains in place, Kubis said, but not getting them to leave could affect Libya’s political transition and the December elections.
“Therefore, it is crucial to plan and ensure an orderly exit of foreign fighters, mercenaries and armed groups along with their disarmament, demobilization and reintegration into the countries of origin,” he said.
Thousands of fighters
The UN estimated in December that there were at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including Syrians, Russians, Sudanese and Chadians. Diplomats said speakers at an informal council meeting in late April said there were more than 20,000, including 13,000 Syrians and 11,000 Sudanese.
In mid-April, the Security Council voted to deploy up to 60 international monitors to the UN political mission in Libya to monitor the ceasefire and the withdrawal of foreign mercenaries and fighters.
Kubis said the UN secretariat in New York and the mission in Libya are planning an initial deployment of only five observers in Tripoli.
He said the ceasefire agreement calls for all military units and armed groups to return to their camps and, in parallel, all foreign mercenaries and fighters should leave Libya.
“Based on this, we are withdrawing a limited number of mercenaries to Benghazi [in the east] and Tripoli [in the west] and then flying them, you can begin a balanced, sequenced retreat of foreign mercenaries, fighters, and foreign forces, ”Kubis said.
He said this approach needs a plan and deadlines “agreed with those external forces that are associated with mercenaries and foreign forces in Libya.”
Earlier this month, Najla al-Manqoush, Libya’s interim foreign minister, called for the departure of foreign and mercenary forces at a joint press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu .
Cavusoglu responded by saying that Turkish forces were in Libya as part of a training agreement reached with a previous Libyan administration. “There are those who equate our legal presence … with foreign mercenary groups fighting in this country for money,” he said.
On a positive note, Kubis said the security situation in Libya “has improved significantly, although clashes occur from time to time between groups of armed militias competing to influence, access and control territory and resources.”