UN chief recommends Libya cease-fire monitors based in Sirte

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Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is recommending that international monitors be deployed to Libya under a U.N. umbrella to observe the October cease-fire agreement from a base in the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to the country's major oil fields and export terminals.

The U.N. chief said in an interim report to the Security Council on proposed cease-fire monitoring arrangements circulated Monday that an advance team should be sent to Libya’s capital Tripoli as a first step to "provide the foundations for a scalable United Nations cease-fire monitoring mechanism based in Sirte."

Oil-rich Libya was plunged into chaos after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi and split the country between a U.N.-supported government in Tripoli and rival authorities based in country’s east, each side backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers.

In April 2019, east-based commander Khalifa Hifter and his forces, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive to try and capture Tripoli. His campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support of the U.N.-supported government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.

The October cease-fire agreement called for the withdrawal of all armed forces from conflict lines and the departure of all mercenaries and foreign fighters within three months.

Guterres gave few details of the monitoring mechanism but said the Joint Military Commission, with five representatives from each of the rival sides, "has requested unarmed, non-uniformed individual international monitors to be deployed under the auspices of the United Nations." They would work alongside joint monitoring teams from the rival Tripoli and eastern governments "for specific monitoring and verification tasks," he said.