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UN: Presence of 20,000 foreign fighters in Libya causes serious impasse

TUNIS, TUNISIA - NOVEMBER 16: Stephanie Williams, head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) speaks during a press conference on the 7th and closing day of Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, on November 16, 2020 in Tunis, Tunisia. The UN-brokered Libyan Political Dialogue Forum has been postponed until next week due to a lack of consensus on who will lead the transition process. ( Yassine Gaidi - Anadolu Agency )
Stephanie Williams, head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) speaks during a press conference on the 7th and closing day of Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, on November 16, 2020 in Tunis, Tunisia [Yassine Gaidi - Anadolu Agency]

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has warned that at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries are currently present in Libya, leading to a serious crisis regarding the ongoing arms smuggling operations into the country.

Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) Stephanie Williams indicated on Wednesday, at the outset of the third virtual meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LDPF), that ten military bases in various parts of Libya are partially or completely occupied by foreign troops or mercenaries.

"There are now 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in your country, which is considered a horrific violation of the Libyan sovereignty. You may believe that those foreigners are here as your guests, but they are now occupying your house, and this is a blatant violation of the arms embargo. They are pouring weapons into your country, a country which does not need more weapons," Williams added.

The UN official stressed that the presence of these fighters and mercenaries in Libya serves their interests, not the interests of the Libyans, adding: "Dirou balkom (take care). You have now a serious crisis with regard to the foreign presence in your country."

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Williams also referred to the profound economic, humanitarian and social crisis in Libya, emphasising that the country is undergoing a corruption and misgovernance predicament due to the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.

The head of the UN mission pointed to the absence of any improvement in the conditions of the Libyans, expressing her conviction that the LPDF held under the auspices of the UN is the best way to move forward in settling the conflict.

She continued: "The best way to address Libya's governance crisis is to unify the country's institutions and the Central Bank, which needs to have a board meeting to address the exchange rate crisis immediately."

Williams warned the Libyan warring parties at the beginning and conclusion of her speech, stating: "Time is not on your side."

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