Russia’s top diplomat moved to assure his Libyan counterpart on Thursday that Moscow supports the withdrawal of all foreign fighters from its borders.
After speaking with Najla Mangoush, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a press conference in Moscow that the Libyan leadership was “forming a consultative mechanism … to formulate the concrete parameters” under which foreign forces will leave.
Libya has been rocked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011, dividing the country between a UN-backed government in the capital Tripoli and rival authorities loyal to Commander Khalifa Hifter in the east. .
In April 2019, Hifter launched a military offensive to capture the capital, backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and France, while his rivals had the support of Turkey, Qatar and Italy.
The march on Tripoli finally failed in June 2020. Subsequent UN-sponsored peace talks triggered a ceasefire and installed an interim government that is expected to lead until general elections in December.
Last winter, the UN estimated that there were at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including Syrians, Russians, Sudanese and Chadians.
Last month, the UN special envoy to Libya, Jan Kubis, said that factions initiating the withdrawal of all foreign fighters from the country would be an important step for Libya. “We will be prepared to participate constructively in this work together with other countries,” Lavrov said.
The Libyan foreign minister said that her government considers the issue of the withdrawal of foreign fighters to be “important” and “a priority”, but stressed that it should be done gradually and “in a synchronized manner.”
“Implementation mechanisms need to be worked out,” Mangoush said. “Such decisions are aimed at preventing a recurrence [the] negative lessons from some of our neighbors, to avoid a reckless withdrawal of troops and avoid falling into chaos. “