The first exchange of prisoners under the auspices of the UN comes within the framework of the ceasefire agreement signed two months ago in Geneva.
Libya’s rivals have launched a UN-sponsored prisoner exchange, which was part of a ceasefire agreement signed more than two months ago in Geneva, the United Nations said and Libyan officials.
The exchange of a first batch of prisoners, overseen by a joint military committee, took place in the southwest village of al-Shwayrif on Friday, according to the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
In October, the two sides signed a nationwide ceasefire agreement brokered by the UN that called for an exchange of all prisoners of war.
UNSMIL announced the exchange of prisoners without giving details of the number of prisoners released on each side.
He called on both sides to speed up the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, including the exchange of all prisoners.
1/2 UNSMIL welcomes the remarkable success recorded today by the exchange of prisoners from both sides under the supervision of the Joint Military Commission (5 + 5), and thanks to the good offices of the sheikhs and the former tribals. pic.twitter.com/AiVEWyVONG
– UNSMIL (@UNSMILibya) December 25, 2020
Libya is divided between its UN-recognized government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east.
Both sides are supported by a range of local armed groups as well as regional and foreign powers.
The oil-rich country was plunged into chaos after the NATO-backed uprising in 2011 that overthrew and killed longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.
In April 2019, renegade east-based military commander Khalifa Haftar and his forces launched an offensive in an attempt to capture Tripoli, a campaign which came to a halt after months of fighting and finally collapsed in June. .
Haftar’s forces have since retreated to the coastal city of Sirte.
Fathi Bashagha, Minister of the Interior of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), welcomed the exchange in a tweet, attaching photos of released prisoners.
The Tripoli Protection Unit, an armed group allied with the government based in the capital, also released a 31-second video, apparently showing the exchange of prisoners, with an official reading the names of those released.
The prisoner swap comes as Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar traveled to Libya flanked by senior military officers to inspect Turkish units in the war-torn country, Turkish agency Anadolu reported.
The unplanned visit comes after Haftar called on his fighters to “drive out” Turkish forces supporting the GNA.
Turkey’s support for the GNA in Tripoli is what helped avert the Tripoli offensive launched by Haftar with the support of Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in April last year.
This week, the Turkish parliament passed a motion extending the deployment of troops in Libya for 18 months.