Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1273, (3 - 9 December 2015)
Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Issue 1273, (3 - 9 December 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Support for UN envoy to Libya

Egypt and the Arab League have affirmed their support for efforts by the UN’s new envoy to form a unity government in Libya, Doaa El-Bey reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri met with Martin Kobler, the new United Nations special envoy to Libya, in Cairo earlier this week. The two officials discussed the political process in Libya and the progress of efforts to establish a unity government.

At the meeting, Shukri briefed Kobler on Egyptian efforts over the past year to promote stability in Libya, including Cairo’s support of the political process that aims to form a national unity government.

In turn, Kobler briefed Shukri on his consultations with Libyan factions since becoming the UN envoy, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid.

The two officials agreed on the importance of coordinating their efforts in the coming phase, said Abu Zeid. “Shukri reiterated Egypt’s full support of Kobler and his mission and Cairo’s willingness to offer help to the Libyans to maintain Libyan unity and stability in the region.”

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El-Arabi also affirmed his support for Kobler as the UN envoy seeks to pave the way for a national unity government in Libya.

Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Fadel Jawad said the UN envoy had briefed El-Arabi on the details of his efforts to reach a final agreement between Libya’s warring parties and had expressed the hope the Arab League will play a role in ending the Libyan crisis.

Following his appointment as envoy, Kobler announced that his priorities include restarting talks to form a unity government as a precursor to achieving durable peace.

Kobler, a German diplomat who previously served as ambassador to Egypt and Iraq, replaced former Spanish Foreign Minister Bernardino Leon as the UN’s Special Envoy to Libya last month.

Kobler’s appointment came after Leon’s plan to share power and establish a unity government was rejected by Libya’s rival factions in October. Leon then resigned from his post after accepting a lucrative offer to head a new diplomatic academy in the UAE.

Leon’s plan was based on a unity government led by a presidential council comprising a prime minister, five deputy prime ministers and three senior ministers. Kobler urged Libya’s warring factions to adhere to the agreement.

Libya’s fragmentation following Gaddafi’s ouster in 2011 has resulted in two rival governments: one internationally recognised and based in the city of El-Beyda, the second based in Tripoli.

Two Egyptians were killed in an air attack west of Benghazi last week. The attack occurred just days after the Coptic Church announced that two Christians, who had been missing for a week, had been murdered.

Abu Zeid reiterated the Foreign Ministry’s warning to Egyptian citizens still living in Libya to exercise extreme caution and avoid areas where clashes are taking place.

Earlier this year efforts intensified to bring back thousands of Egyptian workers who live and work in Libya via the Ras Jedeir crossing in Tunisia and across the Libyan-Egyptian border.

The efforts were a response to the beheading of 21 Christian Egyptians by the Islamic State group, at a time when up to 750,000 Egyptians were working in Libya, the majority employed in construction. Egyptians, and particularly Christians, have been targeted by Islamist militias since the collapse of the Gaddafi regime.

The death toll has grown steadily. In February 2014 the bodies of seven Egyptian Christians were found near Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, shot in what appeared to be a sectarian attack. In September 2013 an Egyptian was shot dead in Sirte following an argument with two armed men.

Incidents of torture and the kidnapping of Egyptian Christians accused of religious proselytising have also been reported.

Last year saw the abduction of five Egyptian diplomats in Tripoli. They were believed to have been kidnapped in retaliation for the arrest in Alexandria of Shaaban Hadeya, aka Abu Obayda Al-Zawi, the head of the Libyan Revolutionary Chamber, an Islamist group.

The diplomats were released two days later, after Al-Zawi appeared on television to announce that he had been freed by Egyptian authorities. The Foreign Ministry subsequently withdrew all embassy and consular staff from Tripoli and Benghazi.

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