The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said on Saturday that it was predicting the deployment of a limited number of international monitors to ensure the implementation of the ceasefire between the country’s warring rivals.
In a statement, UNSMIL said that a meeting was held by the Co-operation of the Security Council to discuss the security situation in Libya and ways to support the 5 + 5 work of the Joint Military Commission.
The statement called on Libya’s rivals to speed up the implementation of the ceasefire and the immediate repatriation of all foreign fighters and mercenaries.
“The mission reaffirms that it foresees the deployment of a limited number of impartial, unarmed, non-uniformed, international monitors, to complement the Libyan monitors deployed by the Joint Military Commission 5 + 5,” it said.
On October 23, the UN announced a permanent ceasefire agreement between Libya’s warring rivals during 5 + 5 Libya’s joint military commission talks in Geneva.
The Joint Military Committee includes five members of the Tripoli-based and internationally recognized government for the National Accord (GNA) and five from the camp for eastern-based forces loyal to Putist general Khalifa Haftar.
Based in Tripoli and currently led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, GNA was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political solution failed due to a military offensive by Haftar.
Sarraj’s government has been fighting the Haftar militia since April 2019 in a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.
Another mass grave was found
As efforts for a permanent solution continue in the war-torn country, Libyan authorities on Saturday discovered another new mass grave in the city of Tarhuna, about 90 kilometers (56 miles) northeast of the capital Tripoli. The grave is probably the work of militias affiliated with Haftar.
“Four bodies were exhumed from the grave in the Alrabet 2 project area of the city,” Lutfi Tawfiq, director of the General Agency for Research and Identification of Missing Persons, told Anadolu Agency (AA).
The city of Tarhuna, a gateway to Libya’s center and east, had been controlled for several years by the Kaniyat militia, run by the local al-Kani family, who fought alongside Haftar’s eastern illegal forces. It adopted the name Ninth Brigade when the militia merged with Haftar.
In November, the US Treasury Department sanctioned al-Kaniyat and its leader Mohamed al-Kani after finding it responsible for killing civilians whose bodies were found in many mass graves, as well as torture, forced disappearances and the displacement of civilians.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week called on GNA to investigate the fate of hundreds of people missing from the key city. Dozens of mass graves were found there after the withdrawal of a generally feared militia loyal to Haftar last summer.
In a statement, HRW quoted Libyan officials as saying that at least 338 residents of Tarhuna were reported missing. The majority of them disappeared during a 14-month military campaign to conquer the capital led by forces loyal to eastern Haftar, according to the report.
The UN described the discovery of mass graves around Tarhuna as a “horror” in June last year.
According to official sources from Libya, Haftar’s forces and associated militias committed war crimes and genocide during the period April 2019 to June 2020.
Since Haftar’s forces were defeated in June in the western part of Libya, the Libyan government has found about 300 dead bodies in mass graves in Tarhuna and south of Tripoli.
Hopes for Biden administration
Meanwhile, Libya’s Interior Minister expressed hope that incoming US President Joe Biden will support efforts to achieve stability in his war-torn country.
In an interview published on Saturday with the Associated Press (AP), Fathi Bashagha announced that Libya’s government forces backed by Turkey will carry out a major operation in the west of the country to pursue militants and human traffickers, and called on the United States to help.
“Our hopes were greatly heightened” by Biden’s election victory, Bashagha said. “We hope that the new administration will play an important role in Libya’s stability and reconciliation.”
The oil-rich Libya plunged into chaos after a 2011 NATO uprising overthrew and killed the long-serving dictator Moammar Gadhafi and divided the country between the UN-backed government in the capital Tripoli and rival authorities based in the east.
Since last year, the two sides have held UN-led talks to appoint an interim government before the election later in 2021, but have so far not agreed on a voting mechanism to do so. In October, the warring parties agreed on a ceasefire, raising expectations for a peaceful resolution and saying that foreign fighters would leave Libya.
Bashagha, who spoke to the AP by telephone from Tripoli, said that foreign forces would be withdrawn gradually. The rival eastern-based authorities have received support from Russian mercenaries. The interior minister said he had told Russia that Libya was prepared to talk business if the mercenaries left.
Bashagha also credited the US efforts to help defeat the Daesh terrorist group in the coastal city of Sirte in 2016. In 2019, the US said its airstrikes in southern Libya killed dozens of members of the local Daesh affiliate. Bashagha says cooperation with the United States is ongoing but warned that extremists have regained a foothold during Haftar’s attempt to capture Tripoli.
Bashagha said he hoped the United States would support the upcoming operation in the West. Turkey has already promised support, he said. “We hope that the United States will help us … to end terrorist elements that have infiltrated Libya.”
The Trump administration’s position on Libya has sometimes been confusing. The US State Department condemned Haftar’s pressure on Tripoli, but then Trump also made a phone call to Haftar praising him for fighting terrorism. The administration later spoke out repeatedly against the Russian mercenaries employed by Haftar, which is also supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
He also said that the new operation in the west of the country would target migrant smugglers and could help solve the problem.
“Security and stability in Libya are important for Europe and the United States,” Bashagha said.