By Sami Zaptia.
London, 1 February 2021:
Ahmed Mesmari, the official spokesperson for the Khalifa Hafter-led Libyan National Army, (LNA) refuted on Saturday the presence of any Wagner forces ‘‘in or outside Sirte’’.
His statement came in response to reports of the discovery of “leaflets in both Arabic and Russian languages in Sirte, containing threats against a group of Wagner mercenaries”.
Mesmari described the alleged findings of these leaflets and on the crimes allegedly committed in Sirte as ‘‘delusional’’, stressing that this is an open provocation and a new lie.
He confirmed that the situation in Sirte is completely stable, and that the security services are in complete control of the situation.
He added that the transmission of these rumours, lies, and the huge amount of fabricated news did not and will not be able through the instigators to deceive the Libyans or the international community, which directly addressed Turkey, calling on it to withdraw their forces and mercenaries from Libya immediately.
However, there have been widely circulated, but unconfirmed, images of fortifications and trenches along the Sirte-Jufra frontline. These have been attributed to Wagner.
The 23 October ceasefire agreement
It will be recalled that the 23 October immediate and permanent ceasefire in all parts of Libya agreed by the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission (JMC) during talks in Geneva called for the withdrawal of all forces from fighting fronts and the withdrawal of all foreign mercenaries and forces within Libya within 90 days from 23 October 2020. This 90-day deadline obviously passed in January.
Ceasefire monitors’ imminent arrival?
The statement by Mesmari is a bold statement and its veracity could be established soon with the news of the planned imminent arrival of independent international ceasefire monitors.
It will be recalled that in December last year United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for the formation of an international committee to monitor Libya’s ceasefire.
The call came in a letter he addressed to the Member States of the Security Council in which he called for the formation of a monitoring committee comprising civilians and retired military personnel from international bodies such as the African Union, the European Union and the Arab League.
“I call on all concerned local, regional and international bodies to respect the outcome of the ceasefire agreement and to ensure its implementation without delay,” Guterres had said.
“I urge Member States and regional organizations to support the mechanism for implementing the ceasefire, including the provision of personnel for observation under the supervision of the United Nations.”
He had also called on ‘‘All countries to abide by the arms embargo imposed by the United Nations on Libya, which is subject to flagrant violations.”
Hafter welcomes ceasefire monitors
On 6 January Mesmari, had welcomed the proposal of sending international ceasefire monitors to Libya. He had said that the decision includes ‘‘sending international observers, civilians and retired military personnel, not a military monitoring force’’.
Mesmari explained that sending a military monitoring force, needs agreements and a resolution from the UN Security Council, and the approval of all parties and parties in Libya, including the armed forces and parliament, noting at the same time that these measures are not required now, as retired civilians and military personnel are sent, to implement the outputs of Geneva in order to solve the problems of the Libyan citizen, stressing that the decision does not conflict with the Geneva Agreement.
There is a lack of trust between the two conflicting sides
He added that the factor of trust is missing between the Libyan parties, which requires factors to help restore confidence even temporarily, in preparation for the return of unified institutions, and the work of a permanent constitution to ensure the stability of the situation.