Libya agreement welcomed in Cairo but bumpy road expected
Cairo- Egypt welcomed a Libyan ceasefire declaration brokered by France and expressed hope that the move signifies a step towards stability in its restive neighbour. Cairo pledged to work with international partners to help Libya in the process.
“Egypt has been harmed greatly by unrest in Libya,” said Ahmed Abu Zeid, spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry. “We have hopes that all parties can move ahead towards a settlement.”
An official declaration, even one that reflected the goodwill of the main Libyan players involved, however, might not easily translate to peace on the ground, analysts said.
“True, those who made the declaration are the principal actors on the Libyan stage but they are not alone on this stage,” said Mohamed Abu Ras al-Sharif, a Libyan political analyst in Cairo.
“Those who were not part of the deal can torpedo it if they are not included in the political process.”
The declaration, made July 26 near Paris by Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime minister of Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord, and Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army, came less than two months after the two men met in Abu Dhabi and agreed to work together to end the conflict in Libya.
The deal, brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron, calls for parliamentary and presidential elections, finding a negotiated solution to the conflict, initiating national reconciliation and the return of those who fled the violence.
The ceasefire does not apply to counterterrorism operations and the defence of Libyan territories.
Here, Sharif said, lies the problem: The list of groups labelled as “terrorist” by one side is not recognised by the other. He said other players on the Libyan stage included al-Qaeda, a branch of the Islamic State (ISIS), the Muslim Brotherhood, various Islamist militias, other “revolutionary militias” and tribal groups.
“So how will both Haftar and Sarraj deal with all these groups?” Sharif asked. “Some of these groups are not considered terrorist by one party, even as the other considers them so.”
Haftar, in an interview with the French news channel France 24 a day after making the ceasefire declaration, said: “There is a problem in Tripoli because some of the militant groups in the city are affiliated to al-Qaeda. Sarraj does not control them.”
Libya has become a contentious arena for rival regional and international players with Haftar naming Qatar and Sudan as state backers of terrorism inside the North African country. Some countries, he said, did not want the conflict in Libya to end.
While Haftar spoke to the French channel, the eastern Libya government shut the Sudanese consulate in the south-eastern city of Kufra. The Libyan Foreign Ministry accused Sudanese diplomats of “undermining the national security of Libya.” It gave the Sudanese consul-general 72 hours to leave.
Qatar and Sudan are only a few of the countries, analysts said, that have a stake in Libya. The list includes Egypt, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Russia, the United States and France.
“So, when you talk about a settlement of the conflict, you need to get all those countries to agree,” said Abdel Basset bin Hamel, another Libyan political analyst in Cairo. “Otherwise, you will be wasting your time.”
After declaring the deal, Sarraj headed to Rome. Haftar waited for Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who travelled to the French capital from Brussels where he met with EU officials.
Haftar and Sarraj are total winners, whether the deal augurs a settlement or not, analysts said.
Until recently, Haftar was welcomed only in countries backing him. In many European capitals, however, he was viewed as a destabilising factor. The deal, analysts said, bestows a political recognition in Europe he badly needed.
The deal also extends Sarraj’s political life by bringing him closer to a man who, after the early July liberation of the eastern city of Benghazi, was considering invading Tripoli.
“So, this is a win-win deal, even as its implementation will face difficulties on the ground,” bin Hamel said. “This was why both Sarraj and Haftar were enthusiastic to go to Paris in the first place.”