NEW YORK: After nearly two years of closure, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) on Friday welcomed the official reopening of the coastal road linking Libya’s long-divided east and west.
Calling it a landmark and historical achievement, Jan Kubis, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for Libya said, “the opening of the coastal road is a critical step to further the implementation of the cease-fire agreement of Oct. 23, 2020. Equally important, it will allow the free movement of commerce, humanitarian support, and the people of Libya.”
The highway had been closed since April 2019 when eastern commander Khalifa Hifter launched a military campaign to capture the capital of Tripoli from the then Government of National Accord.
Hifter endorsed the reopening of the road along the Mediterranean where a potential resumption of traffic is seen as a crucial step toward peace between the warring parties.
The highway reopening was an “addition to other significant confidence-building measures achieved thus far, such as the resumption of flights and the exchange of detainees,” Kubis said.
He thanked Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeiba for the release of salaries for the security forces. Kubis also hailed the role of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC), the presidency council, and the Government of National Unity for the achievement.
“It is another step in strengthening peace, security, and stability in the country, and in the unification of its institutions,” Kubis said.
The special envoy called on Libyan leaders to follow the “exemplary work of the 5+5 JMC” and “set aside their differences and work together to implement the roadmap and hold elections on Dec. 24.”
The highway was reopened following the 11th meeting of the JMC in Sirte.
“The next major step in the ceasefire agreement’s implementation process is to commence the withdrawal of all mercenaries, foreign fighters, and forces from Libya without delay,” Kubis said.
The JMC called on the UNSMIL to convene a meeting with international stakeholders to discuss a plan for the withdrawal.
The JMC also requested that the deployment of UN ceasefire monitors be expedited.
The warring parties signed a UN-sponsored cease-fire agreement that ended the fighting in October 2020.