Sunday,24 March, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1434, (14 - 20 March 2019)
Sunday,24 March, 2019
Issue 1434, (14 - 20 March 2019)

Ahram Weekly

Wake-up call in Libya

Recent military developments in Libya, with the Libyan National Army (LNA) sweeping through the south and taking control of main cities and remaining oilfields, is the latest wakeup call on the urgent need to reach a political settlement among key Libyan factions to restore the country’s unity.

One of the most significant aspects of the latest developments was how residents of main southern Libyan cities came out to welcome the few LNA troops that arrived to restore security. Southern Libya, like other parts of the country, had descending into a chaos after falling under the control of militias and gangs dealing in human trafficking and drugs. Worse, was providing a safe haven for terrorist groups that threaten Libya and neighbouring African countries.

The majority of Libyans, regardless of the part of the country in which they reside, are tired of war and chaos that has lasted more than eight years, and are yearning primarily for security, but also for electricity, petrol and banknotes scarce in a country that once enjoyed some of highest living standards in the region.

Being Libya’s neighbour, with many historic and family ties to its people, Egypt has been among leading partners warning of the dire consequences of the status quo. What’s at stake is the future of Libya as a united country and the interests of its people who certainly deserve to enjoy a better, more secure and peaceful life. Egypt, by having more than 1,000 kilometres of joint borders with Libya, has suffered tremendously from the breakdown of the country, particularly in terms of infiltration of terrorist organisations and the smuggling of all sorts of weapons. Groups such as the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda have not just sent their elements to carry out terrorist attacks inside Egypt, but also targeted innocent Egyptian workers who went to Libya to make a living. The horrific crime in which 21 Egyptian Christians were slaughtered brutally in early 2015 was a turning point in Egypt’s determination to exert all possible effort to assist the restoration of stability in Libya.

While seeking to help regain the country’s unity and rebuilding a central government and army that can serve the interests of its people, Egypt has been among the key nations pointing to one of the main reasons behind the chaos — the intervention of outside parties who are seeking to serve their own ideological agendas, rather than safeguarding the interests of the Libyan people.

When news reports continue on shipments of weapons coming from Turkey heading towards specific Libya factions, it’s no longer a puzzle to understand who has an interest in maintaining the ongoing division in Libya between East and West. The same applies to Qatar, the gas-rich nation that instead of rebuilding its reputation as another Singapore or Dubai, decided to squander its wealth on supporting political Islamic groups, and even terrorist organisations in Libya and Syria, to claim a delusional regional influence that’s not welcome by the vast majority of the peoples of those countries.

Libya needs a strong government with the backing of a strong army. Therefore, Egypt has repeatedly demanded a partial lifting of the UN embargo on the export of weapons to the Libyan National Army in order to enable its commanders to fight terrorist organisations that have turned some Libyan cities into safe havens and an alleged “Islamic state in Libya.” 

Unlike other outside parties who have no joint borders with Libya, Egypt has maintained close ties with all key Libyan partners, whether the internationally recognised government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, or the commander of the Libyan National Army Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Representatives of major Libyan tribes and stakeholders have also held many meetings in Egypt to reach agreements on ending conflicts and providing a minimum level of security to Libyans.

Furthermore, Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria, all bordering countries with Libya, have held regular meetings in order to coordinate policies that would help provide support for the UN plan, led by UN envoy Ghassan Salame, to hold new elections in Libya that would produce a government enjoying the support of the majority of Libyans.

This Egyptian effort will continue in the coming months and years, and hopefully soon Libyans will enjoy the peaceful life they deserve, and maintain the unity and territorial integrity of their country.

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