Turkey welcomes the resumption of the strategic road Misrata-Sirte, which connects eastern and western Libya, the Foreign Ministry said late on Saturday.
“We welcome the official opening of the Misrata-Sirte coastal road on July 30, 2021, which has been closed for a long time,” it said in a statement.
Turkey also praised the efforts of the Presidential Council, National Unity Government (GNU), led by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, the UN Support Mission in Libya and the 5 + 5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) that resulted in the resumption.
Turkey expressed hope that the move would facilitate Libya’s daily life and help ensure lasting stability, peace and prosperity.
“We wish that this development would have a positive effect on the unification of security institutions and armed forces under the umbrella of a legitimate civilian authority in the country,” it said. “Turkey will continue to support the Libyan people and the government for national unity so that the ceasefire can be maintained, preparations for the forthcoming elections can continue and the political process can be advanced.”
Libya on Friday reopened the coastal road fully after blocking parts of areas controlled by forces loyal to Putist general Khalifa Haftar. “Every effort will be made to ensure the safety of travelers,” a joint military commission from rival camps said in a statement.
Haftar, the commander of the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) based in eastern Libya, welcomed the move.
“Based on our full support for every step taken towards uniting the Libyans and for the agreement of the 5 + 5 Military Commission, we declare the General Command’s approval of the outcome of the Committee’s talks on opening the coastal road. We congratulate the Libyan people on this achievement, “Haftar said in a televised address on Friday.
But he also warned that peace would not be possible “unless all foreign forces and mercenaries leave the Libyan territories unconditionally” and called on the international community to redouble its efforts to achieve this goal.
The highway was mostly opened last month in a move that Dbeibah at the time said would help “turn a page” after a decade of conflict. The motorway connects the war-torn North African country’s border with Tunisia to its border with Egypt.
A distance of 300 kilometers (186 kilometers) between the cities of Misrata and Sirte was interrupted in 2019 when Haftar’s eastern-based forces launched an offensive to seize Tripoli.
Haftar’s campaign finally failed in June 2020, after which UN-sponsored peace talks brought about a ceasefire and installed an interim government that is expected to lead the country to general elections in December. Nevertheless, the UN recently rejected the lack of progress towards holding elections in the war-torn country in December later this year.
The same deal reached in October also stipulated that all foreign forces and mercenaries – who support different sides of the conflict – leave Libya in three months, a provision that has not been complied with. The UN has often stated that the presence of mercenaries is a threat to peace and stability in Libya.
Libya has been plagued by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising overthrew longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 and divided the North African country between a UN-backed government in Tripoli and loyal loyalists against Haftar in the east.
Truck traffic appeared normal on the road on Saturday, but civilian motorists were still cautious and feared explosives left behind by the warring factions, witnesses said.
The UN praised the move, calling it a “landmark and historic achievement.”
In a statement, UN Special Envoy to Libya praised Jan Kubis’ resumption of the road as “another step towards strengthening peace, security and stability in the country and in the unification of its institutions.”
“In addition to other significant confidence-building measures achieved so far, such as the resumption of flights and the exchange of prisoners, the opening of the coastal road is a critical step in further implementing the ceasefire agreement on October 23, 2020, and, just as importantly, allowing free movement. for trade, humanitarian aid and the people of Libya, says the Special Envoy for Libya.
Kubis stressed that the next big step for Libya would be for the factions to withdraw all foreign fighters. In December, the UN estimated that there are at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including Syrians, Russians, Sudanese and Chadians.
Entrepreneurs, mercenaries must leave Libya
On Friday, UN experts called on all private military contractors and mercenaries to leave Libya immediately, saying their departure was “delayed” and an “important precondition” for the peaceful elections planned for this year.
Jelena Aparac, head of the UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries, and four team members, Lilian Bobea, Chris Kwaja, Ravindran Daniel and Sorcha MacLeod, said the mercenaries could also affect security and stability in other countries in the region.
“Nine months after the ceasefire, which demands the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya, mercenaries and private military and security contractors continue in the country,” Aparac said.
“Their continued recruitment and presence in Libya hinders progress in the peace process and constitutes an obstacle to the forthcoming elections.”
The experts quoted “well-trained and well-armed private contractors” from Russia, Syria, Sudan and Chad operating in Libya, some of whom meet the criteria for mercenaries.
They could also adversely affect security and stability in other countries in the region, experts warned.
These mercenaries and mercenary-related actors, experts said, must go immediately and there must be an immediate halt to the transfer of military weapons and equipment to Libya.
“We appeal to the international community to take concrete action to help this process,” said Aparac.
“If elections are to be held in December 2021 according to plan, the Libyans should be able to carry out that process in a safe and secure environment, and the presence of these actors prevents that,” Aparac said.
“There must be a real responsibility for abuses committed by mercenaries, mercenaries and private contractors,” the experts said.