The opening of the road connecting the western port city of Misrata and northern Sirte depends on the withdrawal of mercenaries and the removal of mines in the region, the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord’s (GNA) army said Tuesday.
Commander of the Sirte-Jufra Joint Operations Unit Gen. Ibrahim Beytulmal told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the decision made during the military talks between the rival sides on opening the coastal road depended on the withdrawal of “Russian Wagner and Janjaweed mercenaries as well as the removal of mines.”
The sixth round of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission meetings between representatives of the Libyan Army affiliated with the legitimate Libyan government and forces aligned with putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar took place last week in Sirte. The purpose of the meetings was to advance the implementation of the recently inked cease-fire, following talks in Ghadames, a desert oasis some 465 kilometers (290 miles) southwest of the capital Tripoli, near Libya's borders with Algeria and Tunisia.
As a result of the talks, which began Oct. 19, it was agreed upon that the coastal road, which connects significant population centers of the country’s east and west, would be opened while mines on this route would be removed for the safe passage of civilians and armed units. Foreign powers would also withdraw primarily to Tripoli and Benghazi.
Similarly, during the Tunis talks, the Tripoli-based GNA had strongly underlined that it would not accept further talks with the presence of the foreign mercenaries and their anti-aircraft systems in Sirte.
"The military movement around Sirte and Jufra doesn't point to the agreed-upon withdrawal of military forces and mercenaries,” Libyan Army spokesperson Mohammad Qanunu, addressing the U.N. Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), said last week.
The talks took place amid heavy international pressure after the warring sides agreed to a U.N.-brokered cease-fire agreement last month in Geneva. Previous diplomatic initiatives to end the conflict have repeatedly collapsed.
Parallel to military talks, six days of direct talks were held in Tunisia and ended on Sunday night, during which rival delegates agreed to hold national elections on Dec. 24, 2021.
The political talks are to continue online in a week and will focus on the mechanisms to form a new government that will oversee the polls and build on months of relative calm since the GNA staged a counterattack against a yearlong offensive on the capital by Haftar.
Meanwhile, Tunisia voiced that the Libya Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) reached a consensus on significant issues.
In a written statement by the Tunisian presidency, it was stated that the talks took place in a constructive and positive atmosphere, leading to the agreement on a date for national elections.
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