The UN’s mission in Libya on Thursday welcomed the creation of a joint force between the North African country’s opposing sides to secure the nation’s water network, Anadolu Agency reports.
The Libyan army and militia of renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar agreed on Tuesday to secure the Man-Made River (MMR) pipeline system, which transports about 6.5 million cubic meters of fresh water daily to major cities from huge well fields in the southeast and southwest.
In a statement, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said these efforts represent a “very significant step forward towards the unification of the military institution and the country.”
Water supplies had been shut off since an armed group recently wrested control of the MMR, demanding the release of an imprisoned former regime official of late strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
The joint force to reclaim the network will comprise of the 166th Army Brigade and the Tareq Bin Ziyad Brigade, led by one of Haftar’s sons, according to a statement by the 166th Brigade.
The MMR was established in 1983 as a huge project to transfer groundwater from the desert to the cities and agricultural areas of the country.
“I strongly welcome this achievement, which would not only ensure the security of the Great Man-Made River and uninterrupted flow of water supply, but also paves the way for further confidence-building measures and eventually for the full implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement as well as for the reunification of state institutions,” said UN Special Envoy to Libya Jan Kubis.
Libya has been torn by civil war since the ouster of late ruler Gaddafi in 2011.
On Feb. 5, Libya’s rival political groups agreed during UN-mediated talks to form an interim unity government to lead the country to elections this December.
On March 16, an elected transitional authority, made up of a unity government and a presidential council, assumed their duties to lead the country through a transitional phase to parliamentary and presidential elections slated for Dec. 24.