Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1365, (19 - 25 October 2017)
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1365, (19 - 25 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

New hope for Libya

Despite several failures in the past to restore Libya’s unity as a state, and bringing an end to the civil war among its regions, raging for the past six years, there is a growing feeling among concerned regional and international parties that there might be a chance for success for the new round of efforts led by newly appointed UN envoy Ghassan Salama.

Indeed, the appointment of Salama has created a new dynamism, considering his long experience as a mediator, the fact that he speaks Arabic (which makes it easier to understand the culture and communicate with the different Libyan factions), and that he is originally Lebanese whose country has suffered a long, bloody civil war on sectarian lines.

However, more important is that Libyans themselves seem to have got tired of war that has torn apart their oil-rich country, east, west and south, each having its own government and armed militias. Such chaos has also turned Libya into a safe haven for IS (Islamic State group) and Al-Qaeda terrorists in Derna and other parts of the country, and an important transit point for illegal migration from African nations towards Europe.

Salama succeeded Bernardino Leon of Spain and Martin Kobler of Germany, both of whom presented peace plans to end the war in Libya that has been raging since 2012 on tribal and ideological lines. Their efforts failed because of conflicting regional and international interests and interference, and the false belief among fighting factions that force alone can give them the upper hand.

Egypt shares a long 1,000-kilometre border with Libya and suffered tremendously from the chaos there due to the smuggling of weapons and suspected terrorists who were involved in killing innocent Egyptians. In February 2015, criminal terrorists brutally slaughtered 21 Christian Egyptian workers in Sirte, forcing Egypt’s armed forces to bomb their bases and hideouts.

Egypt’s government has always maintained that restoring stability in Libya requires rebuilding the Libyan state that disintegrated following the forced removal and assassination of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The starting point, in Egypt’s view, was rebuilding Libya’s national army so that it can defeat terrorist groups, restore the country’s territorial integrity, and provide security that would allow Libyans to enjoy their normal life and rebuild their nation.

Unfortunately, a number of countries who have no interest or connection to Libya chose to provide financial support to certain extremist political Islamic groups there in order to display their regional influence. However, it was the Libyan people themselves who expressed their mistrust of these political Islamic groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, when they had a chance to vote and elect their own parliament. Nonetheless, the Tripoli-based government disregarded those results and insisted on dividing the country into east and west.

Libya is not a matter of concern for Egypt and bordering African nations alone. The United States and European countries, particularly Italy, France, Germany and Britain, also have a role to play in putting pressure on Libyan factions to accept the plan proposed by Salama to agree on drafting a new constitution and holding presidential and parliament elections within a year. The role of those countries cannot be limited to bombing Libya during the revolt against Gaddafi, or simply securing Libyan coasts to end illegal immigration to European nations.

Now is the most suitable time to unite all international efforts aimed at ending the chaos in Libya, and to support ongoing negotiations in Tunisia aimed at creating united Libyan government and army. Egypt’s government will certainly spare no effort to support those negotiations, and we hope that all concerned parties do the same.

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