January 20, 2021
FILE – Children play on an abandoned tank in Libya. UNMAS/Maximilian Dyck
By Edith M. Lederer | The Associated Press
CAMEROON, Cameroon – The U.N. chief is urging the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya by Saturday as called for in the Oct. 23 cease-fire agreement signed by the warring sides after years of fighting split the oil-rich North African nation in two.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also urges the U.N.-recognized government that holds sway in the capital, Tripoli, in western Libya and the forces of military commander Khalifa Hifter who run most of the east and the south, “to maintain their resolve in reaching a lasting political solution to the conflict, resolving economic issues and alleviating the humanitarian situation.”
In a report to the U.N. Security Council obtained Tuesday, Guterres welcomed the roadmap adopted by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum — 75 representatives from the country’s political and social spectrum — leading to presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 24, 2021.
After a NATO-led uprising in 2011 that overthrew and later killed dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Libya was divided between the rival administrations in the east and west, each backed by an array of militias and foreign powers. Turkey is the main patron of the Tripoli government, while the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt back Hifter.
Guterres encouraged countries backing both sides and the broader international community to support implementation of the cease-fire “without delay,” including “ensuring the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, and the full and unconditional respect of the Security Council arms embargo” against Libya.
He also urged the Security Council to give the U.N. political mission, known as UNSMIL, “a clear but flexible mandate” to support a Libyan-led mechanism to monitor implementation of the cease-fire. Diplomats said a council resolution outlining the U.N. role will likely be circulated in late January or early February.
In early January, Guterres recommended that international monitors be deployed to Libya under a U.N. umbrella to observe the October cease-fire agreement from a base in the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to the country’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.”
The secretary-general expressed concern at the continuing threat of terrorism and violent extremism in the Libyan region, saying that reunifying the country’s security institutions would contribute “to mitigating the risk” of the Islamic State and other terrorist and extremist groups reconstituting.
“Though operationally weakened as a result of a series of counter-terrorism operations, the Islamic State … and a support network of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) remain a threat in Libya,” he said.
Guterres said the role of U.N. member nations and regional organizations, including the African Union, European Union and Arab League, “is critical.”
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit told the Security Council on Monday that recent events “could bring us closer to ending the division in this important Arab country.”
He urged that foreign fighters and mercenaries be removed by Saturday’s deadline, and urged a solution to the threat posed by armed groups and militias.“ He warned that unless this happens “the country will not enjoy any stability nor will any agreement on the transitional phase and the preparation for the upcoming elections survive.”
Aboul Gheit pledged Arab League support to the U.N. in monitoring the cease-fire agreement and in preparing for and observing December’s elections.