Military representatives of Libya’s rival sides agreed this week on a path forward to implement a UN-backed cease-fire agreement ahead of political talks set to begin on Monday in Tunis.
The agreement came as a result of a two-day meeting of Libya’s Joint Military Committee (JMC) in the oasis of Ghadames, southwest of Tripoli near the Tunisian border, earlier this week.
The two sides agreed to form a joint military subcommittee to supervise the “return” of forces on both sides “to their headquarters” in order to demilitarize the conflict’s front lines.
But the recommendations make no mention of a stipulation included in last month’s UN-backed cease-fire agreement that all foreign troops leave Libya within 90 days.
Instead, the proposed military subcommittee will be tasked with supervising “the withdrawal of foreign troops from contact lines,” according to the UN statement.
A spokesperson for the United Nation’s mission in Libya did not immediately return Al-Monitor’s request for comment.
Why it matters:
The language of this week’s implementation agreement suggests foreign forces such as Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries and Turkey-backed Syrian fighters may not be leaving Libya any time soon.
Foreign players have shown no obvious willingness to budge on this matter, despite the UN’s initiative.
“The actual departure of mercenaries from Libya is an idea that seems to be in trouble,” according to Jalal Harchaoui, a research fellow specializing in Libya at the Clingendael Institute.
“Both sides said yes, then didn’t do anything — which means effectively, the notion of the mercenaries leaving the country is in limbo for now and less drastic mechanisms are being considered,” Harchaoui told Al-Monitor.
Whether the October agreement’s demand that foreign fighters leave the country is included in an expected Security Council resolution on the cease-fire remains to be seen.
Despite the cease-fire, there is no clear path to a political solution for Libya’s nearly decadelong civil war just yet.
Representatives of the rival governments are set to meet on Monday in Tunis to carve out steps toward a unified political future for the country.
Though much progress has been made through the UN and international diplomacy, major sticking points remain, including how oil revenues should be managed and shared via the Libyan Central Bank in Tripoli.
Regarding security coordination, the JMC is scheduled to meet again in Sirte “as soon as possible,” the UN said. Additionally, a meeting aimed at reorganizing the patchwork of militias that make up the so-called Petroleum Facilities Guard is scheduled to be held at the oil export hub of Brega on Nov.16.
The United Arab Emirates is not the only potential spoiler to Libya’s fragile steps toward peace. Cengis Candar lays out why Ankara sees the UN-backed “permanent cease-fire” as a potential threat to its interests in North Africa.