Egypt ponders a more active role in Libya

Sunday 05/02/2017
Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Taher Siala (C) attends a ministerial meeting of countries neighbouring Libya along with UN Envoy
Martin Kobler (R) in Cairo, on January 21st.

Cairo - Egypt plans to play a more active role regarding Lib­ya due to concerns con­flicts in the neighbour­ing state will evolve into a full-scale civil war and that the Islamic State (ISIS) might seek to seize more territory, experts said.

“The fear in Egypt these days is that Libya can burst into a compre­hensive civil war if proper interven­tion is not made,” said Ziad Aql, a researcher at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies think-tank in Cairo. “This is why Cairo is trying to find a solution to the crisis agreeable to all parties in­volved.”

After offering backing to the army led by Khalifa Haftar, which controls large areas of eastern and northern Libya, Egypt is adopt­ing a more inclusive approach to the Libyan crisis and trying to get the country’s rival governments to unite while also helping it battle the forces of political Islam.

“This will be the stickiest issue as Egypt tries to broker a settle­ment to the conflict,” said Libyan analyst Mohamed Idriss al-Amroni. “Nevertheless, Egypt is capable of finding a middle ground on this be­cause a restive Libya is perilous to Egypt’s national security.”

The Foreign ministers of Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria were expected to meet in Cairo soon to discuss ways to help Libya resolve its crises, Egyptian Foreign Ministry sources said. This would be a follow-up to a January 21st meeting in Cairo.

“Terrorist organisations active in Libya pose real threats to it,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said following that meet­ing.

“Egypt is only interested in bring­ing stability to Libya,” said Egyp­tian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid. “To do this, it will deal with all legitimate institutions in the neighbouring country.”

The unrest in Libya following the downfall of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in 2011 has posed security concerns for Egypt along its bor­ders. Cairo said most of the arms that end up in the hands of mili­tants in the Sinai peninsula enter the country from Libya, where stockpiles of weapons and ammu­nition belonging to Qaddafi’s army fell into the hands of militants and arms dealers.

Sinai-based militants, who in late 2014 swore allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), have staged repeated attacks against Egyptian Army and police posts. ISIS took control of the Libyan city of Sirte on the Mediter­ranean coastline in 2015. Libyan pro-government forces backed by US air strikes drove ISIS out of the city in December but the terror group is still reported to have a sig­nificant presence in the country.