The United Nations, European Union, Arab League and the African Union on Tuesday demanded all foreign forces and mercenaries to immediately leave Libya, as the country tries to reestablish order and head to elections.
The much-violated arms embargo has been in place since 2011, when an uprising toppled longtime Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi during the regional upheaval known as the Arab Spring.
In a statement after a videoconference by its leaders, the so-called “Libya Quartet” demanded “full compliance with the arms embargo and the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from the entirety of Libya’s territory.”
The U.N. estimates that some 20,000 foreign fighters, mainly troops from Turkey and mercenaries from Russia, Syria, Chad and Sudan, are currently deployed in the country.
In 2019, Ankara and the Tripoli-based internationally recognized Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) reached two separate memorandums of understanding (MoU), one on military cooperation and the other one on maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In January 2020, Turkey began deploying soldiers to Libya after Parliament approved a motion responding to Libya’s call for Turkish troops.
Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) had made a formal request for “air, ground and sea” support from the Turkish military to help fend off an offensive by forces loyal to putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who was attempting to take control of the capital, Tripoli.
The Turkish military has also been providing assistance to restructuring the Libyan Army into a regular army based on the model that was used in training the Azerbaijani Army.
In recent weeks, the possible departure of Syrian mercenaries has been raised and, this weekend, N’Djamena mentioned the arrival in Chad from Libya of several hundred Chadian mercenaries who may have contributed to the fighting that led to the death of President Idriss Deby.
Foreign mercenaries and arms have poured into the country since Haftar launched his offensive, with Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) serving as the putschist general’s top suppliers. According to the U.N., there are currently 20,000 foreign forces and/or mercenaries left in Libya.
The Russian Wagner Group, which is owned by businessperson Yevgeny Prigozhin, a figure close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is known as one of the main groups that sent mercenaries to fight in Libya.
Most of the foreign forces are concentrated around Sirte at Jufra airbase held by Haftar’s forces 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of Tripoli and further west in Al-Watiya.
In June, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) revealed that 2,000 Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group had been operating alongside Haftar forces.
During its meeting, the Libya Quartet “condemned the continued violations of the U.N. arms embargo and emphasized that all external military intervention in Libya is unacceptable.”
A U.N. report on Sudan released in January 2020 also said many Arabs from the war-weary region of Darfur were fighting as “individual mercenaries” alongside warring Libyan parties.
It also called for “the sustained implementation of measures to fully identify and dismantle these groups.”