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Iran Press TV

20,000 foreign combatants causing serious crisis in Libya: UN

Iran Press TV

Thursday, 03 December 2020 7:24 AM

The United Nations (UN)'s acting Libya envoy has warned that the presence of at least 20,000 foreign combatants and mercenaries in war-torn Libya is causing a "serious crisis" there and constitutes a "shocking violation" of the North African country's sovereignty.

"That is a shocking violation of Libyan sovereignty… a blatant violation of the arms embargo," the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Stephanie Williams, told an online meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) on Wednesday.

Her remarks came as weapons reportedly continue pouring into Libya despite a UN arms embargo that has been in place against the country since 2011.

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya, namely the UN-recognized government based in the capital, Tripoli, and another camp based in the eastern city of Tobruk, backed militarily by armed rebels.

The Libyan government receives major backing from Turkey, and the rebels from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Jordan.

The rivals agreed during talks in Geneva in September to hold elections within 18 months and restructure the government.

The 75-member LPDF, which is part of the UN efforts to end the chaos in Libya, is trying to get the country's warring sides to reach an agreement on a mechanism that would set up a transitional administration to lead the country through presidential and parliamentary elections in December 2021.

In October, the two sides signed a ceasefire deal, which also set a three-month deadline for foreign combatants and mercenaries to leave Libya. However, no progress has been made on the departure of those forces.

According to UN experts, the foreign forces, including Syrians, Sudanese, and Chadians, have purportedly been brought in Libya by rival sides.

"It is incumbent upon all actors to respect Libyan requests for them to depart the country so that Libyans can come together, so that the ceasefire can actually be implemented, that military forces can withdraw," Williams separately told Al Jazeera.

"Time isn't on anyone's side here. There is now a constituency of change in the country to come together. There are well-justified fears, a justified lack of confidence between the different parties. But the country is slipping away," she added.

The UN official also denounced unspecified foreign governments for "behaving with complete impunity" and intensifying the Libyan conflict with mercenaries and weapons.

Williams also warned that 1.3 million of Libya's more than 6.8 million people are expected to need humanitarian assistance in January.

Libya, which sits atop the largest oil reserves in Africa, initially plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

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