ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Countries neighboring Libya wrapped up their meeting Tuesday in Algeria, with calls for foreign fighters and mercenaries to be pulled out from the conflict-stricken North African nation.
The two-day meeting also urged Libyan parties to stick to a political road map that ended hostilities last year and set parliamentary and presidential elections in December.
The meeting, hosted by Algeria, was attended by foreign ministers of Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Chad and Niger. Those countries have for years been concerned over the chaos in Libya. The U.N. envoy for Libya, Jan Kubis, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and a representative of the African Union also attended.
“The question of the withdrawal of mercenaries, terrorists and irregular forces is a fundamental question that conditions the success of the elections,” said Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra at a news conference.
“Libya is the first victim of these irregular elements and the risk is real that neighboring countries also become victims if the withdrawal is not handled in a transparent, organized way."
Algeria, which shares a long border with Libya, is ready to play a role, he said.
Libya has been wracked by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, and split the country between a U.N.-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities loyal to commander Khalifa Hifter in the east. Each have been backed by different armed groups and foreign governments.
In 2019, Hifter launched a military offensive to capture the capital. His campaign was backed by Egypt, the UAE, Russia and France, while his rivals had the support of Turkey, Qatar and Italy.
Hifter’s march on Tripoli ultimately failed in June 2020. Subsequent U.N.-sponsored peace talks brought about a cease-fire and installed an interim government that’s expected to lead the country into a general election in December.
The Libyan parliament has so far failed to agree on a legal framework to hold elections.
Kubis, the U.N. envoy, urged lawmakers to finalize laws needed for the December vote “without any further delay.”
He also expressed concerns about the continued presence of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces in Libya, echoing the U.N. Security Council’s calls for the full implementation of the October cease-fire deal including the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries.
The U.N. estimated in December there were at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including Syrians, Russians, Sudanese and Chadians.
“Libya is at a critical stage where the significant achievements and progress of the past period must be consolidated with an added momentum to continue the political transition towards a unified, fully sovereign, peaceful and stable country,” Kubis said.
Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed.