After Coastal Road’s opening, Militias Threaten to Return Division between Eastern and Western Libya

The opening of the coastal road has brought the division between eastern and western Libya back to the fore, despite the welcome by the Presidential Council, the Supreme Council of State and the general Khalifa Haftar for the decision of the Joint Military Committee to open the road. However, the file of mercenaries and foreign fighters remains an obstacle to the completion of national reconciliation and the holding of elections on schedule.

Abdel Hamid al-Dabaiba, head of the Libyan National Unity Government, has called for support for the next steps for the work of the Joint Military Committee (5 + 5) after the coastal road was opened. Al-Dabaiba has pointed out that he assigned the Ministry of Defense to develop solutions to the difficulties and obstacles facing the committee’s work in a number of files.

Strife and external parties..

Al-Dabaiba stressed during his meeting with members of the 5 + 5 Committee on Wednesday that the completion of the coastal road’s opening contributed to more stability and alleviated the people suffering, and would contribute to the complete unification of the country. He pointed out that the events that took place on the road last Sunday will reinforce the division.

 “The recent events that took place on the coastal road between the east and west of the country represent a form of spreading hatred among the Libyan people, carried out by groups of saboteurs, mobs, and those who tamper with the security of the homeland and the citizen,” the Joint Military Committee 5 + 5 confirmed.

Last Sunday, elements of the armed militias forced the Libyans to drive their cars over the image of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the Commander-in-Chief of the Libyan Army, which led to a state of anger among the drivers.

In addition, the committee has warned, in a statement, of the consequences of spreading chaos and igniting the fire of sedition and disruption of the social fabric. It also has called for the renunciation of the discourse adopted by groups hostile to the unity and stability of Libya, the cessation of fighting between the brothers, the opening of vital roads, the healing of rifts, reunification and tolerance.

The Security Arrangements Committee and the operating rooms were instructed to follow up and strike with an iron fist for anyone who tries to mess with the security and safety of citizens and to speedily arrest violators and take the necessary legal measures against them.

It is noteworthy that the Libyan Joint Military Committee announced on Friday, July 30, the reopening of the coastal road linking eastern and western Libya, more than two years after its closure, and assigned Libyan officers to monitor what was agreed upon.

During their stay in the city of Misrata, the delegation of Al-Ahli Benghazi team was attacked by local elements, who smashed the windows of the bus that the mission was traveling in and carried slogans, banners and pictures of a political nature.

The work of the Military Committee was disrupted more than once due to the militias’ intransigence instigated by outside parties. Observers believe that the hands behind all these practices aim to tamper with the political solution, the military agreement and cut off the path to national reconciliation, pushing for the postponement of elections that the political Islam movement and its allies do not want to organize.

The new Libyan Government of National Unity, headed by Abdel Hamid al-Dabaiba, and the new Presidential Council, headed by Muhammad al-Manfi, officially took authority in Libya on March 16 to manage the country’s affairs and prepare for presidential elections, at the end of this year, according to the plan sponsored by the UN and reached by the Libyan Dialogue Forum.

The election of the interim authority also has ended a division in Libya, since 2015, between the east, the headquarters of the elected parliament backed by the Libyan National Army, and the west, the headquarters of the previously internationally recognized Government of National Accord.

Taking out the mercenaries..

The reopening of the coastal road after nearly 17 months of its closure and the necessity of citizens to take bumpy and unsafe roads is the first notable success of the Government of National Unity, since its agreement on a ceasefire in Geneva on October 23, 2020. The importance of this success lies not only in alleviating the Libyans suffering and facilitating the movement of travelers and goods between the west and east of the country, but also ending the division in the country and gathering its diaspora in the face of the projects of division, secession or federalism.

Although the step of opening the coastal road is a good start, observers confirm that the functions of the 5 + 5 Committee are not limited to opening a road, but rather have other competencies entrusted to it, the most important of which is to confirm a ceasefire and work to remove mercenaries from Libyan territory.

Al-Arabi Al-Werfalli, a Libyan political analyst, confirmed earlier that the opening of the coastal road is subject to technical standards in terms of its validity for the use of vehicles and security standards by deploying the necessary forces to secure it so that its passers-by are not intimidated. He pointed out that the Military Committee will find difficulty in the file of removing mercenaries and Turkish soldiers, as it is an international file subject to the seriousness and sincerity of the intentions of the parties involved in the Libyan issue.

It is noteworthy that the Military Committee calls for the presence of international observers to ensure the continuation of the current situation and not to violate the ceasefire, as well as to strengthen the security of the coastal road. The committee also has concerns about the movement of the militias backed by Turkey, and warned that the Libyan army stationed around Sirte would not stand idly by, if the militias moved and penetrated towards the east.

The UN Group of Experts on Mercenaries Follow-up has stated that after 9 months of the ceasefire agreement that calls for the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya, mercenaries continue to exist, work and reposition in the country. The Group has stressed that the continued recruitment and presence of mercenaries in Libya hinders progress in the peace process and constitutes an obstacle to the upcoming elections.

The UN experts have stressed that these mercenary and mercenary-related actors must leave immediately, and that there must be an immediate end to the transfer of military weapons and supplies into Libya. The experts have appealed to the international community to take concrete steps to aid this process

Between East and West..

The coastal road in Libya is an important and main artery linking the east, west and south of the country and the connecting part of this road between Sirte and Misrata is of additional and great importance, since Misrata is the economic lung of Sirte, and there are family and tribal relations between the residents of the two cities.

Under the terms of the permanent ceasefire agreement in Libya signed in October 2020, the coastal road must be reopened, any military forces must be withdrawn from it, and the process of removing remnants of war and mines must be completed that has been supervised by military teams with international support over the past months .

It is noteworthy that the construction of the Libyan coastal road was completed in 1937 during the era of the Italian occupation of Libya, and it was named Balbo Road after Italo Balbo, the Italian ruler of Libya at the time. During World War II, this road was used to transport supplies to the warring forces in Libya, whether the Axis or Allied forces.

This road was re-paved in 1967 and there had been plans to make this road a dual carriageway road. Two parts were built: the Sabratha—Tripoli—Misrata; and the Ajdabiya—Benghazi—Taucheira, but it did not happen due to the outbreak of the Al-Fateh revolution in 1969. In 2008, Libya signed an agreement with Italy on the maintenance of the coastal road as compensation for the Italian occupation, and Rome offered to put concrete barriers between the right and left sides because the road is poor and dilapidated, which causes many accidents, but this project was not completed due to the revolution of February 17, 2011.

The coastal road in general constitutes the link between Libya’s borders with Tunisia in the west and Libya’s borders with Egypt in the east. it extends from the Egyptian border to the Tunisian border with a length of 1,800 km. It also connects the major Libyan cities of Tobruk, Benghazi, Sirte, Misrata, Tripoli and is located near the most important oil export ports in Libya.

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