Egypt’s Libya initiative draws Arab, international support

UAE’s Anwar Gargash says Cairo Declaration strengthens momentum for ceasefire, return to a political track.
Monday 08/06/2020
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (2nd-L), Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar and the Libyan Parliament speaker Aguila Saleh take part in a joint press conference in Cairo. (AFP)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (2nd-L), Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar and the Libyan Parliament speaker Aguila Saleh take part in a joint press conference in Cairo. (AFP)

TUNIS –A number of countries voiced their support for Egypt’s Cairo Declaration – that proposes the implementation of a ceasefire in Libya starting Monday, and a return to the political process.

The United Arab Emirates backed the peace initiative Monday, with Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeting that the Cairo Declaration “strengthens the Arab and international momentum for an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of foreign troops, and the return to a political track.”

Gargash also said the international community cannot accept that the fighting continues, adding that a comprehensive political solution is needed for all Libyan parties to the conflict.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation emphasised the UAE’s support for a political solution to end the Libyan crisis in line with the outcomes of the Berlin Conference under the auspices of the UN.

The Ministry also called upon Libyan authorities, led by the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA), to respond immediately to this initiative in order to avoid bloodshed, engage in institution building, and end this conflict, which threatens the sovereignty and integrity of the Libyan state.

The Cairo declaration, unveiled Saturday, called for the withdrawal of “foreign mercenaries from all Libyan territory, dismantling militias and handing over their weaponry,” as explained by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in a news conference in Cairo.

The initiative also proposed holding UN-supervised presidential council elections and drafting a constitutional declaration to regulate elections for a later stage.

There were other expressions of support in the Arab region for the Cairo Declaration, with Saudi Arabia urging Libyan rivals to implement a ceasefire immediately and start talks under the auspices of the UN.

In Jordan, the government welcomed the Cairo Declaration initiative, saying the Kingdom welcomed Egypt’s initiative, describing it as a “significant achievement,” state news agency Petra reported citing the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ayman Safadi.

Safadi also said the declaration was in line with other international initiatives, “which should also be supported to reach a political solution to the Libyan crisis that protects the country’s unity and stability through Libyan dialogue.”

The United States National Security Council tweeted June 7 that it was encouraged by Egypt’s plan as the US embassy in Libya emphasised the need for the Libyan parties to return to peace negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations.

“The United States is watching with interest as political voices in the East of Libya find expression. We look forward to seeing these voices incorporated into a genuine nationwide political dialogue immediately following the resumption of the UNSMIL-hosted 5+5 talks on the modalities of a ceasefire,” the US embassy in Libya tweeted.

“We welcome efforts by Egypt and others to support a return to the UN-led political negotiations and the declaration of a ceasefire.  We call on all sides to participate in good faith to halt the fighting and return to the UN-led political negotiations,” the embassy said.

Russia also welcomed the Egyptian initiative, describing it as a “good basis” for launching the political process in Libya, according to Deputy Foreign Minister and Russian President’s Envoy to the Middle East and North African countries Mikhail Bogdanov.

Regional Director for the Near and Middle East and North Africa at the German Foreign Office Christian Buck said that Germany sees mixed signals from Libya because of political developments and developments in the field.

In a press statement, Buck noted that Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, commander of LNA forces, has made an “encouraging commitment” to the negotiations of the “5 + 5” ceasefire committee.

However, he pointed out that GNA, led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, had pledged to stop the fighting in Libya but that it carried out military operations regardless.

Britain also welcomed Egypt’s efforts and stressed that the initiative should have the support of the United Nations. It called on all parties to the Libyan conflict to urgently engage in the 5 + 5 talks to find a solution to the conflict.

There was support from France too, with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian telling his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry that Paris highly values Cairo’s efforts to stop the fighting in Libya.

The announcement of the Cairo Declaration came as forces loyal to Libya’s GNA, backed by Turkey, declared a fresh offensive that aims to take Sirte in a bid to build upon a string of recent successes against the LNA forces.

The GNA camp however, quickly poured cold water on the truce plan, with Mohamad Gnounou, a spokesman for the GNA, saying  Saturday that “we will choose the time and place when” the war ends.

The Mediterranean coastal city of Sirte is a key gateway to the country’s major oil fields in the east, still held by pro-Haftar forces.

The militants and militias fighting for the GNA with the help of Turkish-supplied drones and hundreds of mercenaries, has in recent weeks retaken most remaining outposts of western Libya from pro-LNA loyalists, who had sought to capture the capital in a 14-month offensive.