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Libyans adopt plan for withdrawal of mercenaries

A military commission made up of rival camps in Libya’s conflict has agreed on a roadmap for the departure of foreign fighters, the United Nations said Friday after talks in Geneva.

The so-called 5+5 committee “agreed on, and signed a comprehensive Action Plan, which will be the cornerstone for the gradual, balanced, and sequenced process of the withdrawal of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces from Libyan territory,” the UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said in a statement.

The plan is key to helping Libyans “regaining their sovereignty and integrity, maintain the peace, stability and security of their country,” it added, urging UN member states to implement the plan.

A decade-long conflict in Libya has drawn in multiple foreign powers, complicating efforts to draw a line under a decade of bloodletting since 2011.

The UN estimates that 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters are deployed in Libya, including Russians from the private security company Wagner as well as Chadians, Sudanese and Syrians.

A UN report released on Monday revealed that all sides, “including third states, foreign fighters and mercenaries, have violated international humanitarian law… and some have also committed war crimes”.

The world body last October oversaw a landmark ceasefire deal between eastern and western factions and along with Libya and several other countries, has repeatedly called for the departure of foreign forces.

The October agreement included a 90-day deadline for the withdrawal of foreign forces, but that has long passed with little sign of their departure.

Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush earlier this month announced a “very modest start” to the withdrawal of foreign fighters from the North African country.

The UN’s envoy Jan Kubis on Friday welcomed the latest deal as “another breakthrough achievement” by the 5+5 committee.

The October 2020 ceasefire brought to an end a fierce year-long battle sparked by eastern military chief Khalifa Haftar’s bid to seize the western capital, Tripoli.

Both sides resorted to foreign help, with Haftar receiving support from the United Arab Emirates, Russia and neighbouring Egypt, while Turkish support was critical in helping Tripoli-based forces repel him.

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