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EU Council president urges foreign fighters to leave Libya

April 5, 2021

European Council President Charles Michel has called for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters from Libya. He also voiced support for the unity government which hoped to bring together rival factions.

Libyen Tripolis EU Charles Michel bei Najla Al-Manqoush
EU Council President Charles Michel said migration was a "major theme" in the relationship between Libya and the EU.Image: Hamza Turkia/Xinhua/picture alliance

European Union Council President Charles Michel called for the departure of all foreign fighters from Libya during his visit to the capital city of Tripoli on Sunday.

"You have created an opportunity to rebuild your country, but there is one precondition — all foreign fighters and troops must leave the country," Michel said at a news conference.

He urged the Libyan political and armed factions to seize the "unique opportunity to build a sovereign, stable and prosperous country."

Calls for foreign fighters to depart have grown in recent weeks. According to the United Nations, some 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters remained in the North African country in early December.

A January deadline for their withdrawal was largely ignored.

What is happening in Libya?

The oil-rich country descended into chaos, mired in multiple rounds of conflict after its longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed in 2011.

The two main camps, each backed by foreign powers, have controlled the eastern and western parts of Libya.

The fighting came to a halt last year, and both sides agreed on a formal ceasefire in October. This was followed by a new Government of National Unity, approved by the Libyan parliament last month.

The unity government is tasked with taking over from the rival administrations and merging Libya's divided state institutions. It is also responsible for steering the country to new elections in December and tackling a dire security situation.

EU offers support

"We will work with the new government and support it," Michel said after meeting with interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah who was selected in a UN-sponsored peace process.

"The European Union actively supports the process of national reconciliation," Michel said. "Economic recovery, elections, the fight against illegal immigration... are areas in which the EU can help."

Migration, he added, was a "major theme" in the relationship between Libya and the EU.

European embassies to reopen

The foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Italy visited Tripoli in a show of support for Libya's newly formed government.

France reopened its embassy in Libya last month, while Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is expected to visit Tripoli next week to reopen the country's embassy.

His visit will coincide with that of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

Michel said the EU ambassador will return to the Libyan capital in the coming weeks.

adi/aw (AFP, AP)