Libya to coordinate with Egypt “at highest level” (Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt))

Libya to coordinate with Egypt “at highest level”

The barbaric IS group announcing its presence in Libya (photos: Reuters & AP)

The barbaric IS group announcing its presence in Libya (photos: Reuters & AP)

The execution of 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya at the hand of the so-called Islamic State (IS) is being seen by many as a turning point for the country that has experienced widespread conflict since the ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi four years ago.
The development comes at a time of intense international involvement in Libya, where two governments have been vying for control over the past few months.
The Libyan parliament, or Council of Deputies, is said to be coming under Western pressure to exclude General Khalifa Haftar from the current confrontation with militant groups, said parliamentarian Tarek Sakr Al-Garoushi.
Meanwhile, Egypt reacted to the execution by waging aerial attacks on IS locations in Derna in east Libya, bombing positions close to the city centre.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah Al-Sisi on Sunday said that the time had come to redress the errors of the NATO operation in Libya, whose success in ending the regime was only matched by its failure to replace it with a workable government. Militant groups that helped bring down the former dictator have for the past four years vied to take control of various parts of the country, practically usurping the power of the central government.
In an interview with Radio Europe 1 on Tuesday, Al-Sisi called for a UN mandate for an international coalition to intervene in Libya. He mentioned that the Libyan people and government have called on Egypt for help.
Cairo is likely to keep waging aerial strikes on IS positions in Libya, Al-Sisi hinted.
The EU made clear that it supports Egypt’s reaction against IS’s “heinous crime”. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Jordan also pledged to act in solidarity with Egypt.
Algeria, however, had reservations about the Egyptian strikes. The killing of Egyptian civilians in Libya must serve as a stimulus to peace efforts in Libya, Algerian officials said.
Asked for his reaction to Egyptian strikes against IS, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra underlined the need to respect Libya’s sovereignty.
“Algeria calls for respecting the sovereignty of Libya and wants to see Libyan institutions reinforced through a process of national reconciliation,” the Algerian minister said.
“The terrorist attack that IS committed against innocent Egyptian citizens in Libya impels us to exert more efforts to encourage Libyans to engage in dialogue,” he added.
A statement from the Algerian Foreign Ministry pledged to “continue efforts with neighbouring countries and international actors with the aim of reaching a political solution to the crisis in Libya … and [to] eradicate terror.”
At present, it seems that General Haftar, who initiated an anti-Islamist campaign known as “Operation Dignity”, may either win a higher post in the country’s military establishment or be excluded from the scene.
Some analysts believe that the targeting of Egyptians in Libya is likely to consolidate Haftar’s fortunes.
Libya, some argue, will need a strong hand at the top of the military institution at a time when IS is clearly attempting to consolidate its presence in the country.
Supporters of Haftar are calling for his appointment as army commander, a move that the Tobruk-based parliament may already be contemplating.
Tribal leaders and military commanders were said to have told the parliament that Haftar should serve either as minister of defence or army commander.
But relations between Haftar and the government have been less than harmonious in recent weeks.
On Sunday, parliamentary speaker Aqila Saleh Issa met with Haftar and Prime Minister Abdallah Al-Thinni to defuse tensions between the two men.
Relations between the government and Haftar had strained because of the criticism former interior minister Omar Al-Sonki levelled on Operation Dignity and its leaders.
According to Al-Sonki, Haftar’s men prevented Al-Thinni’s plane from landing in Benghazi in January. The former interior minister mentioned that Operation Dignity was over and that the Libyan army should be solely in charge now.
He proposed that Haftar steps aside until army forces finish the job and liberate Benghazi. The remarks led to the dismissal of Al-Sonki from his position and the appointment of Al-Bayda in his place.
In a meeting held in Tobruk Monday, the Council of Deputies agreed to create a new post in the army, that of general commander, which many expect Haftar to fill.
But a group of young deputies had reservations about the move. Moseb Al-Abed and Louay Al-Ghawi both threatened to resign from the parliament if it continues to do what tribal chieftains want, which was one of the problems that plagued the previous General National Congress.
Deputy Tarek Sakr Al-Garoushi, meanwhile, believes that the parliament is also coming under pressure from Western officials eager to promote the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to Al-Garoushi, European and American parties are putting political and economic pressure on the parliament in order to promote Brotherhood interests.
Writing on his Facebook page, Al-Garoushi disclosed that the parliament’s national security committee members met in Tunis Thursday with diplomats and military experts from the EU, the UK, the US, Italy and France to discuss ways to end the crisis in the country.
Parliamentary spokesman Faraj Bu Hashem, for his part, said that the parliament is planning to pass a law calling for the return of all people displaced from their homes by force.
Commenting on the Egyptian airstrike on Derna, Bu Hashem said that the Libyan army is now under instructions to strike at IS in various parts of the country, noting that coordination with the Egyptians is taking place “at the highest levels”.
On Sunday, Libya’s Council of Deputies issued a statement denouncing IS’s killing of 21 Egyptian Copts as a “terrorist crime” and pledging solidarity with Egyptians.
In a related move, the Libyan Council of Deputies dismissed Libyan Intelligence Chief Salem Al-Hasi from his position. Abdallah Masoud Al-Darsi is his most likely successor, sources said.