News   /   North Africa

Libya wants all foreign mercenaries out ‘immediately’

Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush speaks, as her counterparts (R to L) French Jean-Yves Le Drian, German Heiko Maas and Italian Luigi Di Maio listen, during a press conference in Libya's capital Tripoli, on March 25, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Libya's new interim government has demanded the "immediate" withdrawal of all foreign mercenaries amid efforts to end a decade of violence in the North African country.

"We reiterate the need for the departure of all mercenaries from Libya, and immediately," Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush said on Thursday.

She made the remarks at a joint press conference with her French, German and Italian counterparts in Tripoli.

The visiting top diplomats were in Tripoli in a show of support for the newly formed Government of National Unity (GNU).

"We represent the EU's support for Libya as it moves towards peace," Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said.

"We reiterated the importance of maintaining the ceasefire, the reopening of the coastal road and the departure of mercenaries," he added.

In a report on Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his deep concern about the continued military activities by "foreign elements" in the north African country.

The UN chief has repeatedly spoken out about the issue of foreign militants in Libya, saying in January that they should "leave Libyans alone".

Libya first plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The country has been split since 2014 between two rival seats of power, formerly an internationally-recognized government, and another group based in the eastern city of Tobruk, protected by armed rebels.

Last week, the new unity government, led by interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, was formed after UN-brokered talks between Libyan factions.

The GNU will run the country until the presidential and parliamentary elections on December 24.

But the presence of an estimated 20,000 foreign militants and mercenaries in Libya's territory is seen as a threat to the transition period.

Previous UN reports highlighted the presence of Syrian, Chadian and Sudanese mercenaries, among others, in the country.

On Thursday, AFP cited an unnamed French diplomatic source as saying that Syrian mercenaries deployed by Turkey were beginning to withdraw, hailing the move as an "encouraging gesture".

Ankara deployed Syrian militants to Libya to support Libya’s former internationally recognized government which had sought Turkey’s support against rebels under the command of Khalifa Haftar, who received support from France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

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