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Merkel urges withdrawal of foreign fighters from Libya following call with Erdogan

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Turkey to help push for a withdrawal of foreign fighters from Libya following a video call with President Erdogan

German Chancellor Angela Merkel encouraged Turkey on Wednesday to push for the withdrawal of thousands of foreign fighters from Libya in order to bolster the Libyan interim government.

Merkel made the remarks during a video conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

The two leaders agreed to provide support to the new government led by Abdelhamid Dbeibah and to send aid as well as help organise elections due at the end of the year, Seibert said.

Libya’s interim government came into being in March, replacing two rival administrations – the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli and a rival unrecognized government allied with warlord Khalifa Haftar in the country’s east.

The GNA relied heavily on Turkish military backing to repel a 2019-20 offensive by Haftar, who was backed by foreign powers ranging from Egypt to Russia.

Merkel in her conversation with Erdogan stressed that “the upcoming withdrawal of soldiers and foreign mercenaries would send an important signal”, Seibert said.

Libya’s new interim government on Monday had urged Turkey to “cooperate” over the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries from the country, to help bolster a seven-month-old ceasefire.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who was visiting Tripoli, for his part criticised those who “suggest… the Turkish presence in Libya is equivalent to that of illegitimate groups”.

The establishment of the new government in Libya has generated a cautious hope that the country can move beyond the conflict and chaos that has entrapped it since the outbreak of civil war in 2014.

But the continued presence of foreign fighters and mercenaries, estimated by the UN at 20,000, is widely perceived as a threat to the transition process.

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