300 Mercenaries Leave East Libya as Phased Withdrawal Begins

The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs said that more than 300 foreign mercenaries left Eastern Libya on Tuesday, marking the start of the phased withdrawal of thousands of foreign forces who have fought on both sides in the conflict.

First announced in November, the move was designed to promote a U.N.-sponsored agreement between the warring parties in Libya through a joint military commission.

“This first withdrawal has taken place, which constitutes a positive first signal after the Nov. 12 conference,” Foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre, said, referring to a Paris meeting that was aimed at breaking the deadlock in Libya.

“It must now be followed up with the implementation as quickly as possible of a complete process for the withdrawal of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces.”

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She did not mention where the mercenaries came from or when they left. According to diplomats, the departing mercenaries came from neighbouring Chad.

The withdrawal comes after Libya’s electoral commission ruled that votes could not be held at the end of December, citing shortcomings in electoral legislation and a judicial appeals process.

A ceasefire agreement reached in Geneva in 2020 called for the removal of all foreign forces and mercenaries in January 2021, and that call was repeated in Paris.

The Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary unit, is entrenched alongside the Libyan National Army (LNA) based in eastern Libya, which Moscow, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt supported during the war. Turkey also sent troops to support the Tripoli government.

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Both sides in Libya’s conflict have extensively deployed mercenaries according to U.N. experts, including from Chad, Sudan and Syria.

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