Troop withdrawal from Libya would be ‘important signal,’ Merkel tells Erdoğan

The withdrawal of foreign troops from Libya would be an "important signal," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday as the leaders vowed to support the new interim government in the North African country. 

The pair in a videoconference agreed to support the interim government of Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, Reuters said, citing a German government spokesman.

A transitional government took power in Libya in March, officially beginning a tenure designed to end with democratic elections set to take place late this year.

Plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled long-time ruler Moammar Gaddafi, Libya in recent years split between the Benghazi-based Libya National Army (LNA), supported by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), backed by Turkey and Qatar.

There are an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters in Libya, including Syrians, Turkish, Sudanese and Russians brought to the country by the rival sides, according to U.N. estimates.

“The Chancellor emphasized that an early start of the withdrawal of foreign soldiers and mercenaries would send an important signal,” Reuters cited the spokesman as saying.

Earlier this month, Libya’s foreign minister called on Turkey to withdraw foreign mercenaries from the country. Turkey responded by defending its role in the country, saying the presence of its military forces were present under a training agreement reached with the previous government. 

The two leaders also discussed international efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the civil war in Syria and international talks on the divided island of Cyprus, according to the spokesman.