LONDON: The remaining “thousands” of foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya must leave the country urgently, US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood said on Thursday at a press briefing attended by Arab News.
Hood was speaking from Berlin, where he was attending a conference on Libya alongside international allies and partners.
The US will “continue to work with our allies to operationalize their (foreign fighters’) departure. Progress on this was made here in Berlin, but obviously there’s much more work to do,” he said.
“The Libyan ceasefire agreement calls for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries, no exceptions … The Libyans are clear: They want everybody out.”
The conference was organized amid plans to hold Libyan elections this December to select a new government. The Libyan state is currently controlled by a government of national unity.
Hood said Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh “represents an effort by the Libyan people and the major political actors to come together and form a government of national unity on an interim basis to bring them toward elections. If you’d asked them a year-and-a-half ago if that was possible, they’d say no.”
He added: “We’ve seen remarkable progress among political actors to stop fighting, to start various committees … and to make important decisions, which has ended the fighting and brought the political actors together to form a government.”
Hood said the conference was aimed at producing a unified, stable and peaceful Libya, and the US has “had contact on the sidelines … with all the major players, including Russia.”
He added that Washington wants to pursue opportunities for cooperation with Moscow and the other influential nations.
“I think there’s space for cooperation here, not just on the humanitarian side but on the security side as well,” he said. “I think we all have an interest in making sure Libya isn’t an exporter of instability.”