EU top diplomats in Libya to support interim authorities

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German foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks in Tripoli, Libya, Thursday, March 25, 2021. The foreign ministers of France, Italy and Germany arrived in Tripoli Thursday, to show their support to Libyas newly elected transitional authorities, who are expected to lead the war-stricken country through general elections end of 2021. (AP Photo/Hazem Ahmed)

CAIRO – The foreign ministers of France, Italy and Germany met with Libyan officials Thursday to show support for the country's newly elected transitional authorities, who are expected to lead the war-stricken country through general elections by the end of 2021.

The European foreign ministers also called on mercenaries and foreign fighters to leave the country immediately.

“We are here to express our support of the political transition in Libya and we are willing to cooperate with the government of National Unity,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told reporters at a joint news conference with his counterparts.

Di Maio was referring to Libya’s interim government, which includes a three-member presidential council and a Cabinet that took power amid international pressure to implement a U.N.-brokered political roadmap.

The three foreign ministers stressed that foreign fighters and mercenaries should immediately leave the country in order to ensure the full implementation a ceasefire agreement inked in October.

“This (withdrawal) is indispensable so that Libya can regain its sovereignty and security,” said France’s Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. “By fulfilling these conditions, Libya can finally turn the page after so many years of a crisis that has divided the country.”

The oil-rich country in recent years has been split between rival east- and west-based administrations, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments. In April 2019, east-based commander Khalifa Hifter launched a military offensive to wrestle the capital, Tripoli, from a U.N.-supported government. Hifter's 14-month-long military campaign failed eventually after Turkey had thrown its full military backing behind his rivals forcing his troops to retreat eastwards.

Earlier this month, the U.N. Security Council called for countries with troops and mercenaries, who were involved in Libya's most recent civil conflict, to withdraw them “without delay.” The U.N. has estimated there are 20,000 foreign fighters in Libya, including Syrians, Turks, Sudanese and Russians.