Libyan military committee agrees coordination on foreign forces departure

FILE PHOTO: The United Nations headquarters building is pictured though a window with the UN logo in the foreground in the Manhattan borough of New York August 15, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

TUNIS (Reuters) -Libya's "5+5" military committee of officers from both main sides of the civil war has agreed on a coordination mechanism for the withdrawal of foreign forces in liaison with neighbouring Sudan and Niger, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

The procedural step would allow for joint coordination and data exchange to facilitate the full withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign fighters from Libya, the U.N. Libya envoy Abdoulaye Bathily announced after a meeting in Egypt.

However, any more concrete moves to pull out the hundreds of foreign fighters believed to be present in Libya after joining different sides in the conflict still face major political obstacles.

Although there has been little open warfare in Libya for nearly three years, the political standoff over control of government and access to state resources persists, with many Libyans fearing a return to conflict.

The main eastern and western factions fighting from 2014-20 deployed fighters from African countries, Syria, and from the private Russian company Wagner, according to U.N. experts' reports. Turkey also deployed forces in Syria at the invitation of the then internationally recognised government.

According to the terms of the 2020 ceasefire agreement that led to the formation of the 5+5 committee, all foreign forces were meant to be withdrawn within months, but very few are believed to have left.

(Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Jon Boyle and Alex Richardson)

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