BERLIN: Libya’s foreign minister said on Wednesday international powers had made progress at talks in Berlin on the removal of foreign fighters from the country, although a final communique from the UN-backed conference specified no concrete new measures.
Libya has had little stability since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising against then-head of state Muammar Qaddafi, but a UN-led peace process brought a ceasefire last summer after fighting between rival factions paused.
Wednesday’s meeting in Berlin aimed to make progress on removing mercenaries and other foreign forces from Libya, months after the ceasefire called for their withdrawal, as well as on steps toward securing a December election.
“Hopefully within coming days mercenaries (on) both sides will be withdrawn,” Libya’s Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush told a news conference following the talks.
A senior official at the US State Department said Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in Libya, had reached an initial understanding to work toward a target of pulling out 300 Syrian mercenaries from each side of the conflict.
A US State Department official said it was unrealistic to think a full withdrawal of foreign fighters would come overnight and that it would be a phased approach.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also said he believed there was an understanding between Russia and Turkey on a step-by-step withdrawal of their fighters.
“This will not mean that everybody will take their mercenaries back overnight,” he said. The talks were also attended by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
A second State Department official said it was unrealistic to think a full withdrawal of foreign fighters would come overnight and that it would be a phased approach.
“Getting at what we think is one of the key de-stabilizing elements, the presence of these foreign fighters, Syrians, Chadians, Sudanese, that is an important first step and it’s not something we had before,” the official said.
Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeiba called on Libya’s parliament to approve an election law to allow the December election to go ahead and to pass his government’s budget.
“Unfortunately, we have not yet seen the necessary seriousness from the legislative bodies,” he said.