France announces departure of 300 mercenaries from eastern Libya
Around 300 foreign mercenaries have left eastern Libya, the French Foreign Ministry said, as it welcomed the start of the gradual withdrawal of thousands of foreign forces that have fought on both sides of the conflict in the country.
The move, initially announced in November by Libya's eastern-backed forces, was intended to stimulate a U.N.-backed agreement struck between the warring sides in the conflict through the 5 + 5 Joint Military Committee, Reuters reported Tuesday.
French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said that the first withdrawal had already taken place, which constitutes a positive first signal after the November 12 conference, referring to the Paris meeting that was aimed at breaking the deadlock in Libya.
"It must now be followed up with the implementation as quickly as possible of a complete process for the withdrawal of mercenaries, foreign fighters, and foreign forces, the French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman added.
A member of the Joint Military Committee (5+5) representing Haftar's forces, Faraj Al-Sawa, had earlier denied the exit of any mercenaries from the country, stressing that the plan for the withdrawal of forces is ready and awaiting the approval of the government and the forces of western Libya.
It is noteworthy that Haftar had announced last November the start of a phase to withdraw 300 mercenaries who are fighting with his forces in response to a French request at the time, as a gesture of goodwill on his part.