Libya's Tripoli-based parliament on Wednesday stated that the province in which the vote of confidence for the recently elected Government of National Unity (GNU) under Prime Minister-designate Abdul Hamid Dbeibah will be held must be rid of mercenaries and foreign forces.
The parliament’s statement comes after the United Nations mission in Libya suggested the vote be held in coastal Sirte province. Similarly, Aquila Saleh, speaker of the Tobruk-based parliament, last week called on the assembly to convene in Sirte on March 8 to vote on the new unity government.
"We hope the LPDF (Libyan political dialogue forum) outcomes help unite state institutions and achieve national reconciliation and social justice, including the return of IDPs (internally displaced people), bringing to justice those responsible for mass graves and other crimes,” Tripoli’s parliament said.
It further voiced readiness to hold the session to unite the Tripoli and Tobruk parliaments.
On the other side, the parliament also urged the U.N. Security Council to publish the panel of experts' report about bribery allegations against LPDF members that alleged that at least three participants were bribed to vote for Dbeibah.
According to a report seen by Agence France-Presse (AFP), U.N. experts found that during the Tunisia talks, two participants "offered bribes of between $150,000 to $200,000 to at least three LPDF participants if they committed to vote for Dbeibah as PM."
Dbeibah, in response, rejected the claims as “fake news.”
The latest claims came after several Libyan organizations in November demanded an investigation into allegations of corruption over the selection of future officials.
Previously, Gen. Ahmad Abu Shahma, the head of the Libyan government's military committee and member of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission, stated similarly that the committee agreed to withdraw foreign forces from Sirte, where deputies are expected to meet.
The deadline for the departure of foreign mercenaries from Libya under an October cease-fire passed as of January but mercenaries remain in Libya as no movement has been announced or observed on the ground.
Under an Oct. 23 agreement, Libya’s rival sides – namely the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in the Libyan capital Tripoli and eastern-based putschist Gen.Khalifa Haftar – reached a countrywide permanent cease-fire in Geneva, including a three-month deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries.
Foreign mercenaries and arms have poured into the country since Haftar launched his offensive, with Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) serving as the putschist general's top suppliers. According to the U.N., there are currently 20,000 foreign forces and/or mercenaries in Libya.
The Russian Wagner Group, which is owned by businessperson Yevgeny Prigozhin, a figure close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is known as one of the main groups that sent mercenaries to fight in Libya.
In June, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) revealed that 2,000 Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group had been operating alongside Haftar forces.
The U.S. also last year imposed sanctions on three individuals and five entities that are linked to the Wagner Group, after accusing the mercenary group of laying landmines in and around Libya’s capital Tripoli.
A small advance team was deployed to Libya earlier on Wednesday, the U.N. Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) announced on Thursday.
"The advance team will help advance U.N. planning, in close consultation with the 5+5 Joint Military Commission, and provide the foundation for scalable United Nations support to the Libyan-led and Libyan-owned Cease-fire Monitoring Mechanism (LCMM). The team will also prepare inputs for the report that was requested by the Security Council," it said in a written statement.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a December report had recommended deploying a mission to Libya, while the Security Council made a similar request on Feb. 4.
Guterres had said an advanced team should be sent to Tripoli as a first step to “provide the foundations for a scalable United Nations cease-fire monitoring mechanism based in Sirte.”
He indicated that the monitor would “initially provide oversight and report compliance along the coastal road on the removal of military forces and mercenaries, the deployment of the joint police force, and the clearance of explosive remnants of war, booby traps and mines.”
UNSMIL stated that the advance team will report its findings to the special envoy.
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