By Aiyeku Timothy
President Joe Biden wants Russian and Turkish forces out of Libya as the United States made calls for their immediate withdrawal on Thursday.
A stipulated deadline for the two countries to leave the country has elapsed but has been ignored.
The call made to Russian and Turkish forces is a confirmation of a firmer expression of US policy toward oil-rich Libya under the new administration of President Joe Biden.
“We call on all external parties, to include Russia, Turkey and the UAE, to respect Libyan sovereignty and immediately cease all military intervention in Libya,” the acting US ambassador Richard Mills said during a UN Security Council meeting on Libya, which has seen a decade of fighting since the overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi.
Under a UN-backed ceasefire signed October 23, foreign troops and mercenaries were to pull out of Libya within three months. That deadline passed on Saturday with no movement announced or observed on the ground.
“Per the October ceasefire agreement we call on Turkey and Russia to immediately initiate the withdrawal of their forces from the country and the removal of the foreign mercenaries and military proxies that they have recruited, financed, deployed and supported in Libya,” said Mills.
The UN estimates there are some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions: the UN-recognized Government of National Accord in Tripoli and military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east.
According to the UN, Haftar has the backing of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, particularly mercenaries from a private group with links to Vladimir Putin. The GNA is supported by Turkey and Syrian rebels transferred to Libya.
Mercenaries in Libya include several thousand each from Syria and Sudan and a thousand from Chad, a diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
In a declaration adopted unanimously Thursday by the 15 Security Council members — including Russia — the panel “called for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya without further delay.”
The statement by Mills signaled a clearer tone in US policy under Biden. While in power, his predecessor Donald Trump at one point seemed to back Haftar, although the official US policy at the end of his administration was that all foreign fighters should leave in line with the UN-backed agreement.
However, Russia has denied having any military personnel in Libya.
“We don’t have any military personnel or servicemen on Libyan soil. Therefore there is no Russian military intervention in Libya,” a spokesperson for the country’s mission told AFP.
“If there are any Russian nationals as mercenaries, which we cannot totally exclude, those who hired them should be addressed to withdraw them.”