Libya's Joint Military Commission held a meeting in Geneva Wednesday to discuss devising a comprehensive action plan for the withdrawal of mercenaries, foreign forces and foreign fighters from the country.
The U.N. Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) facilitated the meeting.
The 5+5 Joint Military Commission is made up of five senior military officers from the Libyan government and five chosen by putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar.
"As always, your task is bigger than its military and security aspects; your task has a direct impact on the overall developments in the country, on regaining its sovereignty, stability, security, and unity," said U.N. Special Envoy on Libya Jan Kubis.
"Everyone understands how critical this meeting is for the sake of the country. Everyone understands that if you will manage to come together and agree on such an action plan, you will be sending a signal, not only to the political leaders and institutions in the country but a signal of hope also to your people," Kubis added.
Following the 2020 cease-fire agreement, then Special Envoy for Libya Stephanie Williams had said: "The parties agreed that all military units and armed groups on the frontlines shall return to their camps.
"This shall be accompanied by the departure of all mercenaries and foreign fighters from all Libyan territories – land, air, and sea – within a maximum period of three months from today."
Last week, Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush said some foreign mercenaries have started leaving the country.
"The reports are correct. There is a very modest start," Mangoush said at a news conference in Kuwait when asked whether some foreign fighters had been removed.
Libya's warring sides, backed by regional powers, remain entrenched with allied foreign mercenaries along front lines in defiance of a cease-fire agreement.
Any more significant withdrawal of foreign mercenaries has appeared far off amid arguments over the role of regional forces allied to each side and stumbles in efforts to agree on ground rules for a national election.
There has been little peace or security in Libya since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted Moammar Gadhafi. The country split between the warring eastern and western factions in 2014.
Eastern forces were backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Russia and Egypt. The previous government in Tripoli, in the west, which was recognized by the United Nations, was supported by Turkey.
Foreign mercenaries and arms have poured into the country since Haftar launched his offensive, with Russia and the UAE serving as the putschist general's top suppliers. According to the U.N., there are currently 20,000 foreign forces and/or mercenaries left 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.
Most of the foreign forces are concentrated around Sirte at Jufra airbase held by Haftar's forces 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of Tripoli and further west in al-Watiya.
In June, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) revealed that 2,000 Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group had been operating alongside Haftar forces.
A U.N. report on Sudan released in January 2020 also said many Arabs from the war-weary region of Darfur were fighting as "individual mercenaries" alongside warring Libyan parties.