Moscow is being asked to help evacuate fighters, some of which may be supported by Russia itself.

The Foreign Minister of Libya’s internationally recognised and UN-backed Government of National Accord, Mohamed Taha Siala announced that his country asked Russia to help evacuating foreign fighters from the war-torn country. Siala was speaking during a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday.

The press conference came following Moscow’s invitation to discuss political and military developments in Libya.

After the meeting Siala said, "We asked for Moscow's assistance to evacuate foreign fighters from Libya. We expressed our concern over seizing oil export revenues in a bank account that Libyans cannot benefit from."

Previously, several actors including the GNA have condemned the existence of Russian Wagner mercenaries among the foreign fighters supporting the Warlord Khalifa Haftar in his fight against the UN-backed government in Tripoli.  

Russia previously participated in a meeting of the UN Security Council in mid-December during which all member states unanimously called for withdrawing foreign fighters from Libya. The call came amid local and international criticism of Moscow’s alleged connections to Wagner and the presence of Wagner mercenaries in Libya.

For years, Libya has been undergoing an armed conflict as Haftar's militias, with the support of some Arab and Western countries, fight against the internationally-recognised government.

Referring to the Egyptian delegation’s visit with the GNA for the first time since 2014, Saila said that it has come too late. 

“We would have preferred that the Egyptian side was present alongside all the other parties to contribute to building confidence between them."

READ MORE: What prompted Egypt to make its first diplomatic contact with Libya's GNA?

"I invite the parties who believe that the solution to the Libyan crisis has to be military to reconsider their stances, support the implementation of the peaceful solution and help to end the presence of foreign fighters," he added. 

Saila also stated that the GNA has already handed over the required budget to hold democratic elections in Libya on the country’s independence day, 24 December in 2021. 

Reaffirming the government’s role in providing security and stability of Tripoli, Saila said; "We hope that no party will attempt to inflame the war again in Libya."

Russia, mercenaries and Libya

On the one hand, Russia officially supports the UN’s mediation efforts led by Special Envoy Ghassan Salame, and on the other hand, the country blocked a UN Security Council statement which looked to call on Haftar to halt his advance on Tripoli and the UN-backed government. 

US Africa Command previously revealed that thousands of mercenaries belonging to the infamous Russia-based Wagner Group were believed to be sent to Libya. According to several reports, the Wagner Group is closely linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Russia is seeking to secure oil and construction deals in Libya, which "possesses the largest oil reserves and fourth-largest natural gas reserves on the continent." Despite Moscow’s repeated denials that they operate in Libya, evidence emerged that the country sent more than a dozen fighter jets to support Haftar. 

Moreover, Russia was also accused of using a Syrian airline called Cham Wings to send mercenaries to the warlord Khalifa Haftar, with France and the UAE in support.

Russia’s plans to reinforce Haftar’s militias in Libya with mercenaries and Assad regime fighters have been widely reported by both regional and international media.

Last April,  a high-ranking Russian commander-led delegation had multiple meetings with forces fighting alongside the Assad regime in Syria's Daraa province. According to media reports, Russia offered $1,000 and a 3-month renewable contract to each pro-regime fighter in exchange for their service to the Libyan warlord. 

Reports suggested that Russia runs military camps in Syria to train different mercenary groups. In March this year, Moscow reportedly signed a deal with several mercenary groups working for the Assad regime in Syria's southern city of Quneitra. 

The mercenaries sent by Russia reportedly include the Shabiha militias from Syria’s Deir Ezzor province that are linked to the Assad regime as well as Iran-backed foreign groups called the Fatimiyyun, Zeynebiyyun and Jerusalem brigades. They are trained on Russian military bases in Syria’s Latakia province, made combat-ready and sent to Libya to join  Haftar’s forces.

Russia has reportedly recruited former members of Daesh after they signed a "compromise" agreement with the Syrian regime and then joined the Jerusalem Brigade.

On 3 December this year, the acting envoy of the United Nations for Libya said that there are more than 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, warning of a “serious crisis” as weapons continue pouring into the country. 

READ MORE: A violation of sovereignty: UN says 20,000 foreign fighters exist in Libya

During an online meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, Williams said; “That is a shocking violation of Libyan sovereignty ... a blatant violation of the arms embargo.”

Source: TRT World