Senior military figures from Libya’s rival eastern and western power bases have held an unprecedented meeting in the capital Tripoli, calling for a unified command over their troops.
General Abdelrazzak al Nadhouri, second in command of forces loyal to eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, visited Tripoli on Monday and Tuesday to meet with Libya’s chief of general staff in the country’s west, General Mohammad al Haddad.
“It is necessary to name a single chief of staff for the military institution and begin the reunification of the army,” the pair said in a joint statement following their encounter.
The meeting reportedly enabled work by the so-called 5+5 military commission — made up of military officials from each of the rival camps — to progress, including on the thorny issue of foreign fighters who were supposed to depart following an October 2020 ceasefire.
The sides also agreed to carry out border patrols, including in the south, in order to stem the flow of refugees and migrants and root out smuggling and trafficking networks.
“I am heartened by the outcome of the meeting between General Haddad and General Nadhouri,” the UN’s top Libya envoy Stephanie Williams said on Twitter. “Their spirit of cooperation and compromise is a model for the political class.”
“The United Nations commends this important dialogue and continues to support the security track talks, notably through the Joint Military Commission (JMC 5+5), including on the full implementation of the October 2020 ceasefire agreement,” the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said in a statement.
Libya’s armed forces were split into two after the self-proclaimed power of armed forces in the country’s east Sirte, the Libyan National Army (or LNA), distanced from the UN-backed government’s army in the capital Tripoli.
The North African country fell into more than a decade of crisis and repeated episodes of armed conflict after the fall of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 uprising.
Presidential and legislative elections were originally scheduled for December 2021 to cap a UN-sponsored peace process following the last bout of large-scale fighting in 2019-20.
But the polls were postponed indefinitely due to sharp differences over controversial candidates and rules surrounding participation.
The country’s east and part of the south are under the de facto control of Haftar, who made a failed attempt to take the capital in 2019-2020.