The issue of mercenaries, foreign fighters have long been an obstacle to Libya’s historic general election.
Libya’s rivals have reached a preliminary agreement to withdraw foreign fighters and mercenaries from the North African nation, which is seen as an important step towards uniting warring factions in the violence-torn country.
A 10-member Joint Military Commission, mediated between rivals, signed a “gradual and balanced” return agreement at the end of three days (JMC 5 + 5), with five representatives from each side, facilitating talks in Geneva on Friday. .
It said the plan, along with an implementation mechanism, would be “the cornerstone of the process of gradual, balanced and orderly withdrawal of foreign troops to be hired”.
The UN special envoy for Libya, John Kubis, hailed the move as “another success”.
“Creating a positive momentum that must be built to move towards a stable and democratic phase, in which the results are accepted by all, including the holding of free, credible and transparent national elections on December 24,” Kubis said.
The United Nations has welcomed the signing of a ceasefire agreement, a UN Security Council resolution, and an action plan consistent with the outcome of last year’s Berlin Conference.
Rental and civil war
The issue of hiring and foreign fighters ahead of Libya’s historic general election has long been a stumbling block.
Last December, Stephanie Williams, the UN’s acting ambassador to Libya, estimated that there had been at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya over the past few years, including Russia, Syria, Sudan and Chad.
Libya is mired in anarchy after a NATO-backed uprising overthrew longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The oil-rich country, later, split between rival governments in the capital, Tripoli, and the eastern part of the country. Each side is supported by various foreign powers and militia groups.
Libya’s partition came to the fore in 201, when Khalifa Haftar, a hypocritical military commander affiliated with the former administration, launched an offensive to seize Tripoli from an armed militia with a UN-recognized but weak government.
Haftar had the support of Egypt, UAE, Russia and France. But his 14-month campaign and march on Tripoli finally failed in June 2020, after Turkey sent troops to support the UN-recognized administration, which also had the support of Qatar and Italy.
After the fighting was largely halted, UN-sponsored peace talks brought a ceasefire last October and established an interim government that is expected to lead the country in the December elections.
The ceasefire agreement also includes the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries within three months – which has not been implemented.
After signing the agreement in Geneva, the rival parties said they would go back and negotiate with their base and relevant international parties “to support the implementation of this plan and respect Libya’s sovereignty.”
The agreement also calls on UN observers to monitor the ceasefire before implementing the withdrawal plan.