Egypt's FM, UNSMIL chief confer over aspired inclusive political settlement in Libya

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Sun, 30 Aug 2020 - 02:53 GMT

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shokry, and Stephanie Williams, head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), in Cairo on August 30, 2020. Press Photo

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shokry, and Stephanie Williams, head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), in Cairo on August 30, 2020. Press Photo

CAIRO – 30 August 2020: Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shokry received in Cairo on Sunday Acting Special Representative of the UN Secretary General Stephanie Williams, head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), to confer over the rapid political and field developments taking place in the North African State.

 

Shokry affirmed that Egypt backs all steps aimed at achieving de-escalation and a political solution renewing the country's support to the ceasefire declarations declarations issued on August 21 by Prime Minister of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez al-Sarraj and Speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives – temporarily convening in Tobruk - Aguila Saleh.

 

Shokry highlighted the Egyptian fundamentals when dealing with the Libyan crisis. Those consist of Libya's territorial integrity, the rehabilitation of state institutions, and combating terrorism and foreign intervention.

 

The minister expressed appreciation for the efforts being deployed to achieve a fair distribution of wealth and revenues of economic resources among all Libyan factions.  

 

The minister said he values the role of the UNSMIL asserting that Egypt will continue coordinating with the mission in a way that pushes forward the political process in alignment with the Cairo Declaration, and the outcomes of Berlin Conference.

 

The conference concluded that no foreign powers shall intervene in Libya, the embargo must be reinforced, a ceasefire must be achieved, and the political process must resume.

 

In turn, Williams presented the outcomes of her talks with Libyan and regional parties expressing appreciation for Egypt's role in resolving the crisis.

 

Ceasefire at Stake

 

On August 24, Spokesperson of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Ahmed al-Mesmary stated that the GNA militias are mobilizing militants and transporting arms to attack the LNA's concentrations in Sirte.

                                        

Mesmary added that in the previous 24 hours Turkish frigates were moving toward Sirte, and that their launchers were in the attack position. He said that such military moves show that the decision in not solely in the hands of the GNA that has declared a ceasefire on August 21. The spokesperson stressed that the LNA is ready to repel any assault on its concentrations in Sirte and Al Jufrah.

 

The GNA said that the ceasefire should include the disarmament of Sirte and Al Jufrah, and the resumption of oil production while freezing the use of its revenues at the Central Bank of Libya until an agreement is reached. On the other hand, the House of Representatives mandated the dismantling of militias and the deportation of foreign mercenaries in order to achieve a ceasefire.

 

Contradicting Indicators 

 

Source at the Libyan National Army (LNA) told the Middle East News Agency (MENA) that the defense ministers of Qatar and Turkey visited Prime Minister of Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez al-Sarraj on August 17.

 

The parties agreed that Qatar would send military consultants to assist in the commanding of the militias protecting the GNA, which is an interim non-elected government that is recognized by the United Nations. Furthermore, Turkey contemplates establishing a military base in Misrata.

 

On the other hand, Commander of the LNA Khalifa Haftar received on August 18 the Egyptian Chief of Military Intelligence Khaled Mgawer who delivered a message from President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

 

Escalation  

 

In December 2019, Turkey signed with the GNA two MoUs on defense and gas drilling in the Mediterranean.

 

In January, the Libyan Armed Forces restored Sirte, and was advancing in the outskirts of Misrata and Tripoli. However, early in June, it lost Al Watiyah and Tarhouna, which was its last stronghold western the country, retreating into Sirte and Al Jufrah. The Libyan army installed air defense systems in Sirte, while Al Jufrah already has a main airbase.

 

Libyan tribes announced the closure of oil ports and fields in January as the revenues were used by the GNA to pay militants. Early in July, the tribes declared that oil facilities would resume operations. However, the LNA announced on July 11 that such facilities would remain closed until the demands of the Libyan people on dismantling militias are fulfilled. The Libyan National Oil Corporation (NCO) announced that the value of revenues lost until present is $6.5 billion.

 

Mesmary stated early in July that Turkey has transported into Libya 25,000 mercenaries. Those include 17,000 Syrian militants, 2,500 Tunisians who fought in the ranks of the Islamic State (IS) in Idlib and Aleppo, and other nationalities including the Sudanese.

 

Turkey has also sent 2,500 – 3,000 officers and military experts to co-command the operations rooms of the Government of National Accord (GNA) militias and to pilot drones from mainly Tripoli's Mitiga Airbase. The LNA downed around 70 Turkish drones as they were targeting its concentrations.

 

The LNA announced downing on July 23 a Turkish reconnaissance plane west of the Libyan city of Sirte, which is currently controlled by LNA forces.

 

On July 22, the LNA warned Turkey against approaching the Libyan coasts, threatening to target any hostile naval vessels in the Libyan waters.

 

On July 5, several "unknown aircraft" launched nine strikes against Oqba Bin Nafea Airbase located in Al Watiyah controlled by the GNA – which is an interim non-elected government that is recognized by the United Nations - and Turkey. The outcome was the destruction of Hawk air defense systems, and a Koral electronic warfare system as well as the killing of a Turkish commander, and six officers as the operations room they were in was hit.

 

However, Commander of Mobilization at the LNA Khaled al-Mahgoub stated on July 20 that Turkey still uses Oqba bin Nafea airbase in Al Watiyah western the country to bring in military reinforcements less than a month from losing air defense and electronic warfare systems in strikes by "unknown flights."  

 

The LNA's commander of mobilization unveiled on July 25 that Syrian mercenaries transported by Turkey are being turned into police forces by the Ministry of Interior affiliated to the GNA.

 

The GNA was formed as per the 2014 Skhirat Agreement expired in 2017, and that failed to achieve its purpose, which is ending the civil war and unifying the affiliation of the country's institutions.  There is another interim government that is based in Tobruk eastern Libya and that was formed by the elected Libyan House of Representatives convening in the same city instead of Benghazi given the circumstances. Benghazi currently constitutes the headquarters of the LNA.

 

Red Line 

 

The Libyan Armed Forces restored Sirte in January, and was advancing in the outskirts of Misrata and Tripoli. However, early in June, it lost Al Watiyah and Tarhouna, which was its last stronghold western the country, retreating into Sirte and Al Jufrah. The Libyan army installed air defense systems in Sirte, while Al Jufrah already has a main airbase.

 

On June 20, Egypt's President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi declared Sirte and Al Jufrah in central Libya a red line that if crossed, Egypt's "direct intervention" becomes internationally legitimate.

 

That is because it is aligned with the UN Security Council resolutions on Libya and Berlin Conference imposing an arm embargo on Libyan factions, banning foreign intervention in the North African State, and advocating for a political solution. Furthermore, Egypt's intervention is requested by the elected Libyan House of Representatives and Libyan tribes.

 

On July 13, the Libyan House of Representatives issued a statement allowing the Egyptian Armed Forces to intervene whenever it perceives a threat to the security of Egypt and Libya describing Turkey as "the invading occupier."

 

On July 16, President Sisi met with Tribe leaders belonging to eastern, central, and western Libya in Cairo as they demanded Egypt's military support to repel Turkish aggression. "We will enter Libya upon the request of the Libyan people, and will leave it in compliance with the order of the Libyan people," the president stated.

 

On July 20, the Egyptian House of Representatives approved sending troops beyond Egyptian borders on the western strategic direction.

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