The Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Antonio Guterres, has warned that foreign fighters and mercenaries remain in Libya in breach of the ceasefire agreement signed last October, calling for their withdrawal and an end to violations of the UN arms embargo in the war-torn country.
In a report to the UN Security Council, Guterres said on Friday the smooth transfer of power in March to a new interim Government of National Unity (GNU) “brings renewed hope for the reunification of the country and its institutions and for a lasting peace”, however; he said progress must continue on the political, economic and security tracks to enable elections to go ahead next December.
The UN Secretary General said in the new report that while the ceasefire continues to hold, the UN political mission in Libya has received reports of fortifications and defensive positions being set up in central Libya on the key route between the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to the country’s key oil fields and export terminals, and Jufra.
“Reports indicated that there was no reduction of foreign fighters or of their activities in central Libya.” Guterres said, adding that the GNU must prioritize the security sector reform including filling senior civilian and military appointments, producing a road map for reunifying the Libyan army and addressing the proliferation of armed groups.
Guterres indicated that bringing one of the world’s largest uncontrolled stocks of arms and ammunition under state control is vital, reiterating his call on member states and Libyan national actors to put an end to violations of the arms embargo and to facilitate the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries from the country.
The UN estimated in December 2020 that there were at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including Syrians, Russians, Sudanese and Chadians, yet at an informal council meeting in late April, speakers said there were more than 20,000, including 13,000 Syrians and 11,000 Sudanese, according to diplomats.