Egypt, West reaching deadlock over Libya?
Cairo - Egypt has been unable to persuade the international community to lift a 2011 UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya, diplomatic sources said.
The international community is also failing to convince Cairo to offer enough political support to the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), which is headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, the same sources added.
UN Special Envoy to Libya Martin Kobler, who was in Cairo in October to meet with Egyptian Foreign Ministry and Arab League officials, said, “There are 20 million pieces of weapons in Libya already.”
A weak Libyan state and a weak army is nightmarish for Egypt, a country that has been most affected by the unrest in Libya, political analysts said.
“Libya is a national security issue for Egypt,” said political analyst Abdel Monem Halawa. “Western countries have vested interests in Libya’s oil, which is why they are with whoever controls this oil, regardless of Libya’s security in general.”
Libya, which shares a 1,200km border with Egypt, has been Egypt’s most serious national security menace since 2011 after the Libyans rose against longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi. The oil-rich North African state has been torn by conflicts among rival militias since Qaddafi’s downfall, which allowed for the Islamic State (ISIS) to take root in Libya.
The GNA was appointed in January to unite the Libyans.
Egypt, which has been at war against political Islam since 2013, has reservations about the Presidential Council formed by the Sarraj government because the council includes Islamists.
From the beginning, Egypt has offered clandestine support to eastern Libya’s army, which is headed by General Khalifa Haftar, a former Qaddafi army officer.
Backing Haftar’s army features highly in Egypt’s talks with Western countries but Cairo’s failure to convince other governments to lift the arms embargo on Libya leaves Egypt alone in its support of Haftar’s army.
“This is why Cairo has to unofficially support Haftar,” said Saad al-Zant, president of the Centre for Strategic and Political Studies think-tank. “Libya needs arms badly to impose order in it and protect its own borders.”
Libya has been the origin of most of the arms ending up in the hands of Islamist militants fighting the Egyptian Army in the Sinai peninsula, the Egyptian government said.
Egypt has been locked in a guerrilla war with Islamist militants, who in 2014 swore allegiance to ISIS. The militants have inflicted heavy damage but the army keeps scoring successes against them.
In July 2015, ISIS Sinai launched coordinated offensives against 15 army posts to seize Sinai territory and declare it the capital of its caliphate in the Egyptian peninsula.
The Arab League is stepping in to bring the Libyans together, Arab League spokesman Mahmoud Afifi said.
“The Arab League will also seek to secure the necessary international and regional support to Libya so that the country can move ahead on the road to a political settlement,” he said.
On November 10th, the league appointed Tunisian diplomat Slaheddine Jemmali as its envoy to Libya.
Egypt, meanwhile, will continue to push for a stronger Libyan Army and a lifting of the arms embargo on Libya, experts said.
They added that Egypt cannot stand idly by while Libya descends deeper into chaos.
“Egypt has a security and strategic interest in backing Haftar’s army, even if this makes some Western governments angry,” Zant said. “Haftar is the only person capable of imposing order in Libya and fighting ISIS and other radical militias in this country.”