‘Turkish forces and the Wagner group in Libya cannot be considered equal’

Turkish elements who are rightfully in Libya at the official invitation of the government and the Russian mercenary group Wagner, which supports a warlord, cannot be considered equal, security sources have said.

“Regardless of the platform, given that the two sides (the mercenaries Wagner and the Turkish forces) are equal, it is not fair,” the sources told the Daily Sabah.

Recently, some media and reports have compared the Turkish forces on the ground in Libya to the illegitimate mercenaries of the Wagner group. Even last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said foreign fighters and mercenaries remain in Libya in violation of last October’s ceasefire agreement and called for their withdrawal and ending violations of the UN arms embargo.

In April 2019, East-based coup plumber General Khalifa Haftar and his forces, backed by Egypt, Russia, France and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), launched an offensive in an attempt to capture the capital. , Tripoli. His 14-month campaign collapsed and Tripoli’s fall was prevented after Turkey stepped up military support for the UN-backed government, the sources said.

An October ceasefire agreement that included a demand for all foreign fighters and mercenaries to leave Libya within 90 days led to an agreement on the transitional government and December elections.

“Contrary to what is written in open sources, the Wagner group carried out 137 flights, according to air traffic control systems, between October 2020 and April 2021 from Syria to eastern Libya,” the officials said. sources. “These are numbers determined by basic and official air traffic control systems. In addition to these, it is known that there were also flights over Egypt which could not be determined because the IFF system was closed.

IFF stands for Identification Freind or Foe and is a radar-based identification system that uses transponder signals to identify specific aircraft.

On the other hand, flights from Turkey are being carried out in coordination with local authorities, to the knowledge of officials, sources pointed out, claiming that flights from Ankara are also rare compared to that from Wagner.

“It can be seen that the flights from Turkey to Libya are carried out as part of the support for education, health and humanitarian aid, including COVID-19 health equipment as well as parts of it. ‘basic maintenance and repair,’ they said.

“On the other hand, the existence of the Wagner Group around oil installations highlights their real objective.”

Formed in 2014 in Ukraine and owned by businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner group is intensely involved in several conflicts.

The group has made its presence more pronounced in Syria and Libya, where Russia has actively participated in the civil war and is said to have used the Wagner group as its proxy in the region. Although Russia does not officially recognize any cooperation with the Wagner Group, reports on the ground prove otherwise

The sources pointed out that in light of this, the statements that Turkish soldiers should be expelled from the region do not reflect reality.

Guterres said in a report to the UN Security Council (UNSC) obtained by the Associated Press (AP) on Friday that the smooth transfer of power to a new interim government, which took power in March, “brings renewed hope for the reunification of the country. and its institutions and for lasting peace.

But he said progress must continue on the political, economic and security fronts to allow the elections to take place on December 24.

The UN estimated in December that there were at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including Syrians, Russians, Sudanese and Chadians.

Guterres said in the new report that although the ceasefire continues to exist, the UN political mission in Libya has received reports of fortifications and defensive positions being put in place in central Libya on the key route between the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to the country’s main oil fields and export terminals, and Jufra.

“Despite the commitments made by the parties, air cargo activities are said to have continued with flights to various air bases in the western and eastern regions of Libya,” the secretary general said. “Reports indicate that there has been no reduction in the number of foreign fighters or their activities in central Libya.”

Last month, the Security Council approved a resolution urging all foreign and mercenary forces to leave Libya and allowing a small UN team to monitor the ceasefire agreement. In an April 7 letter to the council, Guterres proposed an initial maximum of 60 monitors for staged deployment as part of the United Nations mission, known as the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL ).

In his new report, Guterres said the deployment of the observers to Libya was conditional on the approval by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) of resources to cover security, logistical, medical and operational needs, which will be submitted “in the near future”.

Mercenaries can be prosecuted

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday warned mercenaries and foreign troops in war-torn Libya that they could face prosecution, demanding an end to the use of detention centers to commit various serious crimes.

“The office has received information regarding the activities of mercenaries and foreign fighters in Libya,” Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told a virtual UN Security Council meeting on Libya.

“Crimes committed by mercenaries and foreign fighters on Libyan territory may fall within the jurisdiction of the tribunal, regardless of the nationality of those involved,” she said.

Bensouda said the court was receiving information on crimes against detainees ranging from disappearances and arbitrary detention to murder, torture and sexual and gender-based violence.

“We have gathered credible information and evidence on serious crimes allegedly committed in official and unofficial detention centers in Libya,” the Gambian prosecutor said.

The UN has estimated that 8,850 people have been detained without due process in 28 official Libyan prisons, while another 10,000 people, including women and children, are held in other facilities controlled by armed factions.

“I urge all parties to the conflict in Libya to immediately end the use of detention centers to mistreat and commit crimes against civilians,” said the prosecutor, who will step down in mid-June and will be replaced by British lawyer Karim Khan.

Bensouda previously said in November that the offensive led by Eastern forces under Haftar’s command was “part of a pattern of violence that involves indiscriminate airstrikes and bombardments of civilian areas, arbitrary kidnappings, detention and torture of civilians, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and looting of civilians. civil property. “

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