UN envoy demands foreign fighters, mercenaries exit Libya

UNITED NATIONS/LIBYA (AP) – The new United Nations (UN) special envoy for Libya urged foreign forces and mercenaries on Wednesday to leave the conflict-stricken country as demanded in last year’s ceasefire agreement.

Jan Kubis, addressing the UN Security Council, warned against “pitfalls” that could obstruct or delay elections in December aimed at providing a unified government for the nation after years of division.

Kubis said the October cease-fire agreement continues to hold but foreign forces and mercenaries haven’t left and “there are reports of ongoing fortifications and the setting up of defensive positions” along the key axis in central Libya from the strategic city of Sirte to the nearby Jufra area.

“Their withdrawal from Libya will go a long way in reconstituting the unity and sovereignty of the country and healing the deep wounds caused by many years of internal strife, active conflict and foreign interference,” he said.

United States (US) Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the top priority for the UN and Libya must be organising free and fair elections on December 23.

People carry a giant Libyan flag at the Martyr square during a march commemorating the anniversary of anti-Gadhafi protests in Tripoli, Libya. PHOTO: AP

“And that means all external actors involved in this conflict must cease their military intervention, respect the Libyan ceasefire agreement, and begin withdrawing from Libya immediately,” she stressed.

“There can be no exceptions to this stipulation,” Thomas-Greenfield told the council. “The continued presence of some forces has become an excuse for continuing the presence of others.”

“It’s time for everyone to deescalate and end this perpetual cycle” she said, and to stop violating the UN arms embargo and training and financing mercenaries and proxy forces.

Britain’s UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward singled out “contractors working for organisations like the Russian Wagner Group, and the Syrian mercenaries fighting on both sides”.