Some foreign fighters have left Libya as the government tries to gather international assistance to withdraw more of those remaining in the country, Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush said Sunday.
"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.
"We are still seeking a larger and comprehensive organization for the exit of mercenaries," she said.
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.
The warring sides brought in mercenaries, including via Russia's Wagner group, from Syria, Sudan and Chad among other countries, the United Nations has said.
Last year, after putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar's eastern-based militias were pushed back from its 14-month assault on the Tripoli-based internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), the two sides agreed on a truce and accepted the installation of a new unity government in Tripoli.
The cease-fire agreement called for all foreign mercenaries to be withdrawn within three months of its being signed a year ago.
The head of Libya's presidency council said last month it would take part in a conference to ensure "unified, consistent" international support and restore a sense of Libyan leadership and ownership over the country's future.
But Libyan Presidential Council President Mohammad Younes Menfi also warned of "serious challenges" that could undermine national elections planned for Dec. 24.
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.
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