As World powers meet in Berlin to seek lasting peace in Libya, representatives of Libya’s interim government joined US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as well as the foreign ministers of France and Egypt at the United Nations-sponsored talks.
The efforts are meant to ensure the oil-rich North African country stays on the path towards general elections on December 24, 2021.
The meeting is the second round in Berlin, after the first attended by the Presidents of Turkey, Russia and France in January 2020.
Before now, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reminded participants of pledges made last year for an end to international meddling and for foreign fighters or troops to move out of the country.
Maas complained that “those who promised to withdraw last time in Berlin have not kept their word”
“For the Libyans to determine the fate of their country again, the foreign forces must leave. The transitional government has also made that clear,” he stressed.
Over 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries are still in Libya – a presence seen as a threat to the UN-recognised transition leading to the forthcoming national polls.
Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush hopes that some progress will be made following Wednesday’s negotiations.
‘We have a progress in terms of mercenaries, so you know hopefully within coming days, mercenaries from both sides (are) going to be withdrawing and I think this is going to be encouraging,’ she said.
Since a NATO-backed uprising toppled ex-President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been beset with chaos.
The country was subsequently split between the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in the capital, Tripoli, and a rival administration based in the country’s east, each backed by armed insurgents and foreign governments.
Crisis Group highlighted, in a report in May, the extraordinary feat of Libya turning the page by forming a unified government after 6 years of conflict.
In April 2019, rebel commander Khalifa Haftar and his eastern-based forces, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive to try and capture Tripoli.
His 14-month-long campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its support of the Tripoli government with advanced military hardware, troops and thousands of mercenaries.
In October, after Turkey-backed forces of the GNA routed those of Haftar, the two camps agreed to a ceasefire in Geneva.
Although the security situation in Libya has slowly improved, the UN recently warned progress is being hampered by a key requisite precondition for the polls – the disengagement and pullout of all foreign soldiers.