Igor Yanvaryov

In Tripoli, demand the immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces.

The new Libyan authorities have called for foreign mercenaries to leave the country as soon as possible. Their statement came on the day of a visit to Tripoli by the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and Italy, who reaffirmed their support for the newly created Government of National Unity (GON) and supported this call. 

According to experts, it was addressed to both Turkey and Russia. Both international players have been accused of oversaturation of the former Jamahiriya with “soldiers of fortune” from other regions. However, there are doubts that guests from other countries will leave Libya in the short term.

That the PNU sees the “need for the immediate withdrawal” of all foreign mercenaries, stated Minister of Foreign Affairs in the new government of the North African country Najla Mangush. However, she did not elaborate on which external player this appeal was addressed to.

In early February 2021, after a series of meetings, the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum elected the PMU Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeiba and three members of the Presidential Council.

The new structures of the executive power, which are considered equidistant from all parties to the armed conflict, were sworn in on March 15 and immediately began their work in Tripoli.

So far, the task of the PNU is to unite the disparate power structures, as well as to organize presidential and parliamentary elections by December, but the settlement process is also closely related to military issues.

The peace agreement, which provided the basis for the creation of new authorities, presupposes the withdrawal of all mercenary formations, the services of which the authorities of both the West and the East of Libya resorted to.

If the previous government in Tripoli, which had the full support of Turkey, was accused of using the Syrian opposition, then the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar, who opposed him, was supposed to introduce into his forces the Syrians recruited in the areas of Syria controlled by official Damascus. They should have gone home long ago.

Europeans dig in in Tripoli

Mangush’s statement was made during visitForeign Ministers of France, Germany and Italy in Tripoli for talks with Chairman of the PNU Abdel Hamid Dbeiba.

Ministers arrived in Libya to reaffirm support for the new government. In addition, as a result of the negotiations, the “troika” of foreign ministers reached agreements with the new authorities to open diplomatic missions in the North African country.

The ministers did not manage to avoid discussions around the presence of foreign forces in Libya. Thus, the chief of French diplomacy Jean-Yves Le Drian noted that “the departure of the mercenaries is necessary for the Libyan state to ensure its sovereignty.”

In this sense, Paris is probably appealing to both Ankara and Moscow, although its policy in the Libyan direction has long been determined mainly by anti-Turkish views. It is believed that the French side was even inclined to support Haftar – only to oppose the Turkish line in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Mercenaries are not the only military problem. Speaking in Tripoli, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that international players should respect the arms embargo against the North African country and that Berlin will monitor “the process of enforcing the ban on arming the parties to the Libyan conflict.”

“You could do without them”

In a conversation with NEWS.ru, Jalel Kharshaoui, a senior researcher at the Swiss think tank Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, confirmed that the appeal of the new Libyan authorities regarding mercenaries is addressed to Russia and Turkey at the same time.

Moscow – even at the level of UN researchers – was credited not only with sending Syrian “soldiers of fortune” to Libya, but also using fighters from Wagner’s private military company (PMC) in the conflict zone. 

The Kremlin denied these allegations. A year earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not fail to “write down” even the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, the longtime patrons of Haftar, as Wagner’s allies.

As of early 2021, Turkey had about 3,000 Syrian mercenaries in northwestern Libya. But one could do without them. Turkey has made tremendous efforts to present an extensive training program for the brigades of Western Libyans and thus ensure a real rapprochement.

Senior Research Fellow, Analytical Center “Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime”

The analyst draws attention to the fact that Ankara now has several military bases on the territory of the North African country and that there are hundreds of Turkish officers at these facilities who are not going to leave their posts in the near future.

As for the thousands of “foreign mercenaries on the other side,” they “are unlikely to leave Libya this year,” Harshaoui concludes.


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