A third meeting was held this week between Egypt’s Chief-of-Staff, Lieutenant General Mahmoud Hegazi and members from Tobruk’s House of Representatives (east Libya) to resolve the Libyan crisis.
Egypt’s Minister of Defense said in a statement that Hegazi, the head of the committee in charge of the Libyan issue, and members of the committee, “summoned to Cairo an unidentified number of members from the Libyan House of Representatives (HoR), known as Tobruk’s Parliament, to continue the ongoing efforts to resolve the conflicting points that led to a political deadlock in Libya.”
The statement clarified that, “The meeting was to find a mechanism that would contribute in the political resolution in the light of the Political Agreement (Skhirat Agreement), and would allow all the parties related to the crisis to participate, particularly the members of the HoR (Tobruk’s parliament) and the members of Libya’s State Council (one of the outcomes of the Skhirat Agreement).
Egypt’s Excessive Activities on the Libyan Crisis
The last month of 2016 witnessed excessive activities from the Egyptian side regarding the Libyan crisis.
On December 13, 2016, Cairo hosted a conference attended by Libyan officials and representatives from the country’s numerous factions, where they issued a declaration of principles and five proposed amendments to an agreement, brokered by the UN in 2015.
The Libyan Political Agreement, signed in Skhirat, Morocco December 2015 known as the Skhirat Agreement, intensified the internal strife rather than resolving it.
The conference concluded an agreement on amending the 8th article of the 2015 agreement that outline the authorities of the Libyan army chief commander.
The article constituted a major obstacle during signing Skhirat agreement as it included the exclusion of General Khalifa Haftar from leading the army.
The conference meetings were brokered under the auspices of the Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate and in a hotel related to the security entity.
The two-day conference was attended by Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry and Army Chief of Staff Mahmoud Hegazi along with a range of Libyan representatives without the invitation or the attendance of any representative from the Islamic currents.
In this context, some parties in western Libya accused the conference of including only one stream in the Libyan crisis and that it didn’t include the other influential parties in the western area, especially the security council of Misrata city and the Islamic currents.
The conference concluded what the participants consider as “a road map to achieve unity in Libya during the coming period, “and one of the major recommendations presented by the participants, “to reconsider the responsibilities of the army chief commander that is currently held by Aqila Saleh, the head of Tobruk’s House of Representatives (HoR), who has promoted General Khalifa Haftar to Field Marshal last September.
In the same context, a Libyan high ranking military delegation reportedly arrived in Cairo on December 19 in a visit that lasted for several days.
The delegation, which arrived in a private jet from Libya, was headed by Libyan Defense Ministry’s Counselor Mohamed Abu al-Kassem Saleh, and mostly discussed the amendment of the Skhirat agreement, as was seen by many observers.
The Libyan delegation met with a number of top officials and figures in Egypt to discuss enhancing the cooperation ties, and the developments on the Libyan arena.
In the same context, a bilateral meeting was headed by Hegazi and some members from Tobruk’s parliament and Libyan intellectuals to resolve the Libyan crisis on December 21.
Moreover, Aqila Saleh, the president of the House of Representatives (HoR), has again been holding talks with top Egyptian officials on the Libyan crisis.
Saleh met with Egypt’s Chief-of-Staff, Lieutenant General Mahmoud Hegazi, as well as Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and other officials.
According to the official Facebook page of Egypt’s Foreign Ministry Saleh issued with high rank diplomatic and military officials the current situation and the recent developments on the Libyan arena.
In addition to the exerted efforts to reach a compromise based on the Political Agreement (PA)as general framework to reach a political resolution in Libya in the light of the outcomes that resulted from Cairo Conference.
Egypt’s Al-Sisi Tries to Empower Haftar Politically Besides Its Military Support
It seems that the Egypt’s al-Sisi is seeking to empower Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s position by amending the Skhirat agreement.
In this context, many media reports linked the Libyan military delegation’s visit with the visit of the UN envoy Martin Kobler to Egypt, who confirmed in press releases the probability of amending the Skhirat agreement, consider such a step as “the only guarantee to end the Libyan crisis”.
Haftar is a military figure, backed by Tobruk government based in eastern Libya that refuses to recognize the U.N.-backed government, enjoys the support of several Arab nations, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, as well as western countries as France
In this context, the latest excessive Libyan visits to Egypt indicate that Al-Sisi is trying to strengthen Haftar’s role in Libya especially by focusing on amending the PA article that outlined the authorities of the Libyan army chief commander and that also excluded Haftar from leading the army.
The Egyptian Armed Forces assisted Haftar in extending his power in the east. Moreover, Egypt’s Armed Forces have been mandated to protect the joint borders from the sea to the Libyan-Sudanese borders.
It is noteworthy that General Khalifa Haftar stated in a press release that the Egyptian army is the most responsible for protecting the eastern borders of Libya.
In addition, the military chief of staff of Haftar’s militias affiliated to the House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk, Abdul-Razeq Al-Nadhouri, confirmed that “we mandated the Egyptian leadership to protect the common borders from the Sea to the Libyan in North Sudanese boundaries in the South.”
Moreover, the Defense Ministry in the UN-backed government indicated that “foreign warplanes have played a key role in defeating Petroleum Facilities Guards forces,” reported by Libya Observer.
The Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) -led by Ibrahim Jadhran- have withdrawn from the Oil Crescent region in east Libya, hours after retaking Sidra and Ras Lanuf oil terminals from Haftar’s militia known as the Libyan National Army led (LNA).
Libya Observer cited local media which reported that the “PFG accused Egypt and the UAE of bombing their forces near the residential district of Ras Lanuf. Four PFG fighters were killed in the airstrikes.”
The Defense Minister-designate Al-Mihdi Al-Baraghati told Ajwa Net that “There are strong indications that the UAE and Egyptian warplanes bombed PFG forces in Ras Lanuf and Sidra, we are now making sure of these indications.”
The Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Haftar had taken over oil facilities in eastern Libya from Petroleum Facilities Guards, a rival militia force allied to the UN-backed government in the capital, Tripoli.