Soldiers of Misfortune: UN, EU Urges Foreign Troops and Mercenaries to Leave Libya

Written by | Thursday, March 18th, 2021

All foreign forces and mercenaries must leave Libya „without further delay“, the UN Security Council has appealed in a unanimously approved declaration to all parties involved in the protracted conflict. It also welcomed the Libyan parliament’s approval of a new unified government last week (10 March), which is expected to lead the North African country to elections set for December after a decade of civil war following the removal of dictator Muammar Qaddafi. According to the global body, about 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries remained in Libya at the end of 2020, and no withdrawals have been observed since. “The Security Council calls for full compliance with the UN arms embargo by all member states, in line with the relevant Security Council resolutions,” the text said. Experts say the embargo has been repeatedly violated.
“The mercenaries are a stab in our back – they must leave,” Libya’s interim PM-designate Abdul Hamid Dbeibah recently told Parliament. Also the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell last month stressed the importance of the withdrawal of all foreign mercenaries from Libya, describing the ongoing foreign military intervention in the country as unacceptable. These calls for the departure of some 20,000 foreign fighters present in the country come also after a European report published in January revealed that Turkey was still sending weapons to Libya’s al-Watiya airbase in western Tripoli. Turkey and the Tripoli-based GNA signed a number of security agreements in 2020, which paved the way for Ankara to send its own troops as well as Syrian mercenaries to fight with GNA against the Libyan National Army (LNA). Also the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) affirmed that Turkey was still keeping about 8,000 Syrian mercenaries in Libya despite the UN-brokered ceasefire agreement signed by the two warring parties in October 2020. The number of recruits who arrived in Libya amounts to 18,000 Syrian mercenaries, including 350 children under the age of 18, of whom 10,750 returned to Syria after receiving their financial dues.
Oil-rich Libya was plunged into chaos after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled the country’s long-time strongman Qaddafi and splitting it between a UN-supported government in Tripoli and rival authorities based in the country’s east, each side backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers. In April 2019, Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), backed by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates launched an offensive to try and capture Tripoli. His campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support for the GNA, with hundreds of troops and thousands of mercenaries arriving from Syria. A ceasefire agreement reached in October called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries in three months and adherence to a UN arms embargo, provisions which have not been met. In response to the United States‘ calls on Russia, Turkey and the UAE to immediately halt their military interventions. Russia’s UN Mission said that it did not have any military personnel “on Libyan soil”, though it did not exclude the possibility of mercenaries.

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