Effort needed to stop militias controlling Libya


Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said a concerted effort was needed to stop militias taking control of Libya and prevent external actors from intervening.

Libya’s conflict has increasingly become a proxy war between foreign powers, backing various armed groups since the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi. Former rebels have been fighting each other since then.

“We need to work on unifying all national institutions to save our neighbour from the ensuing chaos by militias and prevent intervention of external actors in Libya’s internal affairs,” Sisi said at the United Nations General Assembly.

Egypt, along with the United Arab Emirates, is a supporter of Libyan eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, whose Libya National Army (LNA) is trying to take Tripoli from forces allied with the internationally recognised government (GNA). Turkey backs the GNA.

Haftar’s forces started their campaign in April with a ground offensive supported by air strikes and his backers repeatedly labelled militias in Tripoli as terrorist groups.

The campaign displaced more than 120 000 people in Tripoli, killed hundreds of civilians and risks disrupting oil supplies.

“This conflict needs to be stopped. It is time to take a bold and decisive stand to address the root causes of the Libyan crisis comprehensively and this can be achieved by fully committing to the United Nations plan,” Sisi said.

UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame last month unveiled plans for an international conference to bring together foreign powers backing rival groups on the ground, without naming a venue.

Germany emerged as a possible location with Berlin trying to put it together by October. Salame believes it can mediate as Germany is seen as impartial in the conflict in contrast to France and Italy, which compete for influence. France and Italy have oil and gas interests in Libya and are accused of backing protagonists in the conflict.

Both countries brought Haftar and GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, along with regional players, together at summits in Paris and Palermo last year, but failed to achieve a breakthrough.

The two countries will host a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Thursday, which they say aims to move to the UN-backed conference.

“There will no military solution in Libya. Those who believe it are wrong and risk dragging the country into a dramatic turn,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters.