Demonstration in Bayda, Libya - CC via wikimedia
CAIRO – 16 December 2017: “Nations whose nationalism is destroyed are subject to ruin,” said Libya’s late President Muammar al-Gaddafi. After six years of civil war and armed conflicts among Libyan factions, Libya’s political course will top the agenda of the tripartite meeting, which will take place on Sunday, of three concerned nations; Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria.
The foreign ministers of Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria will convene in Tunisia to resume discussion about the security and political developments of Libya. Libya has become the largest security threat facing the Egyptian state, along with Tunisia and Algeria. The frequent failures of international reconciliation attempts and the fall of weapons into the hands of different militant groups forced Egypt to play a major role in solving the Libyan crises.
Good shelter for terrorists
Observers believe that a big number of foreign fighters, within the ranks of ISIS in Syria, Iraq, Libya and African countries, have returned to their countries full of extremist and radical ideas. They now represent a nucleus to annex small cells that are loyal to the extremist organization to carry out individual terrorist operations. They have already succeeded in launching several major terrorist attacks in Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, the United States and Britain. Many recent terrorist attacks in Egypt were carried out by terrorists coming from the Libyan territory, according to strategic experts. Therefore, Egypt is a vital player in Libyan security and political actors.
Egyptian military role in Libya
In May, Egyptian airstrikes against targets in Libya expanded following the involvement of terrorists in carrying out a massacre in Minya that targeted Egyptian Christians. The airstrikes included, in addition to Darna on Libya's eastern coast, targets in the area of al-Jafra in the center of Libya, in addition to airstrikes that targeted "Al Salvador Passage" in the south, as well. Egyptian officials asserted to media outlets that “there is no intention to even discuss the issue of ground intervention in Libya without ruling out carrying out qualitative operations like the ones that took place early in 2015 when Egyptian Air Forces bombarded targets in Darna in eastern Libya after ISIS beheaded more than 20 Egyptian Christians.”
Egypt has reiterated its commitment to the unity and sovereignty of Libya and the safety of its soil, and rejected foreign intervention of any kind unless it is based on a request by the presidential council of the national accord government and in coordination with it.
Egypt is extremely concerned about the expansion of activities of terrorist groups in Libya. It always asserts the importance of the mechanism of Libya's neighboring countries, the role of the Arab League and the troika proposed by Arab League Secretary General Ahmad Abul Gheit to coordinate the Arab League’s efforts with the UN and the African Union.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, along with his Tunisian and Algerian counterparts will take part in a tripartite meeting on Libya in the Tunisian capital of Tunis, on Sunday.The tripartite meeting is expected to tackle recent developments related to Libya. The meeting will resume talks among the three concerned countries following their last meeting in Cairo on November 15, stressing that this meeting will discuss, “political and security” issues related to Libya. Egypt’s participation in meetings over Libya reflects the country’s support of all means necessary to achieve stability and order in Libya, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said. Last week, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi met with Libya’s Chairman of the Presidential Council Fayez al-Sarraj and discussed political accords necessary to preserve Libya’s unity and integrity.
Egypt’s presidential spokesperson Bassam Rady said that Egypt welcomes the frequent meetings of the Libyan military commanders in Cairo; he also stressed that Egypt confronts foreign proposals aimed at intervening in Libya’s domestic affairs. “Sisi and Sarraj tackled means of cooperation between the two countries in combating terrorism and boosting international endeavors for developing a comprehensive strategy against terrorism,” the statement read. In December 2015, 22 Libyan parliamentarians signed the Skhirat Agreement, in Morocco, to end the civil war which erupted in Libya in 2014. The Skhirat Agreement was put into practice on April 6, 2016. The Government of National Accord, led by Fayez al-Sarraj was the first concrete outcome from the Skhirat Agreement. The first meeting of the cabinet of the Government of National Accord took place on January 2, 2016 in Tunis.
Attempts to solve the crisis
Egypt’s officials held several meetings with their Libyan counterparts as well as members in Tobruk’s House of Representatives to resolve the Libyan crisis and amend the Skhirat agreement. In December 2016, Cairo hosted a conference attended by Libyan officials and representatives from the country’s numerous factions, where they issued five proposed amendments to the agreement. The conference concluded with an agreement to amend the 8th article of the Skhirat agreement that outlined the jursidiction of the Libyan army chief commander. In January 2017, Egypt invited the two major Libyan factions to discuss the amendments to the agreement, which mainly included a change in the duties of the army commander and measures to maintain the independence of the armed forces and separate them from political conflicts.
Egyptian Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Mahmoud Hegazy met with Libya’s Haftar in Cairo to discuss the proposed amendments, while Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi met with Sarraj, because the two Libyan rivals refused to meet face to face. Afterwards, the two sides agreed to form a joint committee that would make key changes to the UN-brokered peace deal. However, Haftar refused to accept Serraj’s suggestion for a three-man presidency council that will include the position of commander-in-chief (Haftar), head of the House of Representatives (Aqila Saleh) and head of separate government.
Egypt has kept pressuring Haftar to meet Serraj and agree on a compromise that would bring the conflict in Libya to an end. Until last month, Haftar refused to do so. In May 2017, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) invited the Libyan rival leaders to meet in Abu Dhabi and discuss again the amendments to the 2015 agreement. According to a local Libyan TV channel, the Abu Dhabi meeting reached a preliminary agreement to form a unified presidential council where the commander of the army and the heads of both the Libyan government and the House of Representatives would be members.
The two sides also agreed to form a unified Libyan army and dissolve all militant groups. Moreover, a parliamentary election will be held six months after the agreement comes into force. A joint statement was issued on Wednesday outlining the main principles of the agreement. It called for achieving the unity of the Libyan territory and army, confronting terrorist groups, and adhering to the rule of law and judiciary.
In a previous statement to Egypt Today, Abu Bakr el-Saeed, member of the Libyan House of Representatives, ruled out the holding of a parliamentary or presidential election in the near future due to the general instability in Libya. He said that the planned presidential council will initially form a unity government, representing all Libyan national forces, and then formulate a new constitution for the country.