300 mercenaries left eastern Libya, according to France

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About 300 foreign mercenaries left eastern Libya, according to a statement from the French Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.

The move, initially announced in November by east-based Libyan forces loyal to putschist General Khalifa Haftar, was intended to spur a UN-backed deal reached between the warring parties to the conflict through a military commission. joint.

“This first withdrawal has taken place, which is a first positive signal after the conference of November 12,” said the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Anne-Claire Legendre, referring to a meeting in Paris which aimed to get out of the deadlock in Libya.

“It must now be followed by the implementation as soon as possible of a comprehensive process for the withdrawal of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces.”

She did not say when the mercenaries left or where they came from. Diplomats said the departing mercenaries came from neighboring Chad.

The withdrawal comes after efforts to bring Libya to elections in late December were disrupted when the country’s electoral commission said a vote could not be taken, citing what it called shortcomings in electoral legislation and the judicial redress process.

A ceasefire concluded in 2020 in Geneva had already called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries in January 2021 and this call was echoed at the Paris conference.

Mercenaries from the Russian Wagner group are entrenched alongside pro-Haftar forces, which were supported in the war by Moscow, as well as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt. Turkey has sent troops in response to the request of the UN-recognized government based in Tripoli.

UN experts, who said they have also visited France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Tunisia to complete their work, note that armed groups still control the majority of Libya.

The UN has previously estimated that 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters are deployed in Libya, including those of the Russian private security company Wagner.

Libya has struggled to overcome the violence that has rocked the oil-rich nation since a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled and killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The October 2020 ceasefire ended a fierce year-long battle sparked by Haftar’s attempt to capture the capital Tripoli.

It also led to the inauguration of a fragile unity government in March, with a mandate to bring the country to election, but the country was unable to postpone elections to December.

Rival Libyan parties disagree over the timing of the votes, disagreeing on whether the presidential elections should be held simultaneously or separately.

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