Panafrican News Agency

Libyan newspapers highlight impact of opening of coastal road on departure of mercenaries, apprehensions about adoption of state budget

Tripoli, Libya (PANA) - Libyan newspapers this week gave wide coverage to the reopening of the coastal road linking eastern and western Libya after nearly two years of closure, asking what effect this might have on the departure of mercenaries and fighters under the ceasefire signed last October in Geneva.

The Libyan press echoed the reaction of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres about the opening of the coastal road, calling it "a victory for the Libyan people".

Al-Wassat newspaper reported that the announcement by the 5+5 Joint Military Commission to open the coastal road, starting last Friday, was welcomed locally and internationally.

This renews hopes that the step of removing mercenaries and foreign fighters from the country could be accomplished, as this is the focal point that the UN has started to talk about, through its Support Mission in Libya.

The announcement was made at the end of the 11th round of the Commission's work in Sirte, from 28 to 30 July. The discussions  on the reopening of the road had "stumbled" for a whole month, after the Commission, at the end of June, linked the opening of the road to the completion of maintenance and security work on the road.

The newspaper said prior to the opening of the road, the Joint Military Commission, in a call with the UN Envoy to Libya, Jan Kubis, called for facilitating a meeting with relevant international parties to discuss a plan to withdraw mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces from Libya without delay.

Al-Wassat newspaper said the Commission also called for the rapid deployment of UN ceasefire monitors to support the Libyan-led ceasefire monitoring mechanism.

The newspaper said that the UN experts' call for the departure of all mercenaries from Libya is understandable, considering that their departure is a prerequisite for the holding of peaceful elections.

The head of the UN team on the use of mercenaries, Jelena Aparac, was quoted by the newspaper as saying that after nine months of the ceasefire agreement calling for the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya, mercenaries and private military and security contractors continue to operate in the country.

The UN official said that their recruitment and continued presence have hampered the progress of the peace process and the upcoming elections.

The newspaper reported that the head of the UN team on the use of mercenaries called on the international community to take concrete steps to assist in this process.

"If the elections are to take place in December 2021 as planned, then Libyans need to be able to carry out this process in a secure environment, and the presence of these actors is an obstacle to this."

With this dynamic, analysts wonder, according to the newspaper, if the opening of the coastal road is the beginning of a greater openness for the exit of mercenaries and foreign fighters, or if it is still waiting for regional and international actors in Libya to find a solution that satisfies all parties, especially Russia and Turkey?

The Afrigtenews newspaper was interested in the reaction of the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who considered that the official opening of the coastal road is "an important development that the Libyan people have been waiting for a long time".

Returning to the issues of approving the budget and the constitutional basis of the elections which are still a headache for the Speaker of Parliament, Aguila Saleh, Al-Wassat newspaper, said he is trying to make up for lost time to resolve them.

It noted that a meeting was held in the Italian capital, Rome, from Monday to Thursday to approve the constitutional rule before a plenary session of Parliament on Monday to decide on the budget issue.

"Next Monday, attention will be focused on the session of Parliament, during which the draft general finance law will be decided, the discussion of the promulgation of the law on legislative and presidential elections, the adoption of the distribution of electoral districts throughout the country, and the response to the Presidential Council regarding the appointment of a head of the General Intelligence Service," the newspaper quoted the official spokesperson of the Parliament, Abdallah Belaihak, as saying.

He added, according to the newspaper, that given the requirements of the public interest and the current circumstances, these items will be completed during the next session, and they will be completed by whoever attends the session.

On 13 July, MPs' deliberations on the finance bill were suspended due to protests by some members of parliament against "the lack of a quorum to vote", the newspaper recalled,.

It added that parliament's legislative and constitutional committee had issued a decision, based on the Constitutional Declaration, that a quorum of 120 votes must be required to approve the finance bill.

This situation comes, the newspaper concluded, at a time when the security situation poses a challenge to the President of the Presidential Council, Mohamed Al-Manfi, and the Prime Minister, Abdelhamid Al-Dbaiba, in protecting the political process before the presidential and parliamentary elections. This is especially in the capital, Tripoli, where its inhabitants have recently experienced clashes between rival armed groups after a phase of stability and appeasement.

-0- PANA BY/IS/BBA/MA 1Aug2021