Cairo initiative fails to make inroads into Libya crisis

The Egyptian government has beefed up security on Egypt’s 1,200km border with Libya, a very expensive undertaking.
Saturday 07/09/2019
Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui (C) meets with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry (L) and Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum to discuss the Libyan conflict in Tunis, June 12. (AFP)
Closing ranks. Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui (C) meets with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry (L) and Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum to discuss the Libyan conflict in Tunis, June 12. (AFP)

CAIRO - An Egyptian initiative for a political settlement of the conflict in Libya came short of bringing the country’s warring parties together, despite the international dimension it is taking.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry declared the initiative in mid-August, days after it invited dozens of Libyan lawmakers, political activists and public and tribal figures for talks in Cairo.

Over three days, the Libyan delegation debated the way ahead for their country and means of ending the crisis politically.

They approved the Egyptian initiative, which calls for distributing Libya’s wealth equitably among all regions, disbanding militias and adopting a united position from Libya’s political forces against foreign interference in Libyan affairs.

The initiative calls on the United Nations and the international community to deal with the Tobruk-based House of Representatives as the sole representative of the Libyan people.

The House of Representatives approved the initiative, especially commending its focus on finding a peaceful solution to the war in Libya. However, the government in Tripoli disapproved of it, accusing Egypt of “flagrant” interference in Libyan affairs.

Reaction to the initiative underscored Libya’s deep rifts that threaten to keep the conflict raging, analysts said.

“This is particularly so with the conflict reflecting international polarisation on what is happening in the country,” said Fayez Jibril, a former Libyan ambassador to Egypt. “There is a growing need for the United Nations to forcefully intervene to make warring parties approve a political settlement.”

Egypt has been trying to rally international support for the initiative

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi raised it at August’s G7 summit in France. Cairo is reportedly addressing the UN Security Council, the African Union and Libya’s neighbouring countries on the initiative.

Without a firm international position on the war in Libya and action against regional sponsors of militias there, Libya risks sliding deeper into violence that could collapse the security system in Africa and threaten Europe’s security via the Mediterranean, analysts said.

“The situation in Libya is getting more complicated,” said Gihad Auda, a professor of international relations at Helwan University in Egypt. “The country is turning into an open battlefield, especially with Qatar and Turkey maintaining and even increasing support to terrorist and Islamist militias.”

The Libyan National Army said it is moving towards fully controlling Tripoli and purging the capital of Islamist militias. It staged several raids against the stations of Turkey-supplied drones.

Libya is still apparently imploding, which is proving very costly to the country’s neighbours and turning into a threat for all of Africa, with terrorist organisations, especially the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaeda, eyeing expansion.

Egypt has complained that arms reaching ISIS in Sinai come from Libya.

The Egyptian government has beefed up security on Egypt’s 1,200km border with Libya, a very expensive undertaking. Despite this, terrorist groups in Libya have smuggled weapons and sometimes attacked sites in Egypt’s Western Desert.

Chadian President Idriss Deby said approximately 22 million firearms had been smuggled from Libya into the Sahara region. His government said that Chad’s border with Libya is becoming uncontrollable.

Terrorist groups losing territory and influence in Syria and Iraq are reportedly relocating to Africa, taking advantage of poor security conditions, poverty and the lack of preparedness by local law enforcement.

There are growing fears that terrorists from Syria and Iraq shifting to Libya and other African countries would create chaos and a wave of refugees towards Europe.

“These are not exaggerated fears, given the fact that Libya is becoming a principal base for terrorist organisations bent on expanding presence in Africa,” said Amani al-Taweel, an African affairs specialist at Egyptian think-tank Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

“Terrorist groups in Libya offer others active in Nigeria, Chad, Mali and sub-Saharan Africa with logistical and financial support, which is why Libya and Africa are badly in need of rescue.”

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