The 5+5 JMC continues to struggle to reopen coastal road – vexed withdrawal of foreign forces causing delay

By Sami Zaptia.

London, 29 April 2021:

The 5+5 Joint Military Commission met for its fourth meeting at its headquarters at the Ouagadougou centre in Sirte between 25-28 April.

The meeting was attended for part of its proceedings by PC head Mohamed Menfi. He chaired a session on 27 April. Also attending on 27 April was UNSMIL head Jan Kubis. According to UNSMIL, Kubis noted “with dismay” the delays in opening the coastal road and “urged the JMC to quickly remove all obstacles in this regard”.

In a statement taking a positive tone the next day, the JMC said that procedures for opening the coastal road were “in their final stages”. It was also stated that de-mining operations were complete, but no date for reopening was given.

However, it is to be noted that on 24 April, the head of the Sirte and Jufra Operations Room, Maj-Gen. Ibrahim Beitelmal, repeated statements coming from hardliners in Misrata that the road would not reopen until all mercenaries left Libya and the LNA withdrew to its Rajma headquarters in Benghazi.

Beitelmal was referring to foreign mercenaries supporting Hafter’s LNA, such as Sudanese and pro-Assad Syrians, not to mercenaries supporting the Libyan government.

It is very unlikely that the withdrawals Beitelmal is demanding will take place. There is currently at least, no incentive for Hafter and his foreign backers to unilaterally withdraw their forces – without a synchronized mirror withdrawal by the forces supporting the Libyan government.

In essence, unless foreign stakeholders get the hardliners to backdown over the withdrawal of pro-Hafter foreign forces – the road will remain closed.

 

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