Egypt Moves Economically to Support Reconciliation Efforts in Libya
Egypt is deploying smart diplomacy and economic initiatives to help achieve a final settlement of the civil war in Libya opposing the Tripoli based Government of National Accord/ GNA), and the Benghazi-based National Assembly and the Libyan National Army (LNA). While the ceasefire brokered by the United Nations last October is holding, it is still fragile. Outside players, in particular Turkey, are attempting to freeze out the LNA and its leader, Khalifa Haftar who is backed by Cairo.
Stabilizing the situation in Libya is crucial for the entire re gion. Since the overthrow of Qaddafi and the outbreak of the civil war, the country has served as a breeding and training ground for international terrorists and extremists, as well as a route for migrants headed to Europe.
On Dec. 27, a delegation of high-level Egyptian officials was sent to Tripoli, which included Undersecretary of the Egyptian Intelligence Service, to meet with representatives of the GNA government. It was the first such visit since the 2014 coup in Tripoli and attack on the Egyptian Embassy, which triggered the second Libyan civil war. On the agenda were discussions on reopening the Egyptian embassy, renewing economic agreements and restarting airline connections between the two countries.
As the Egyptian daily Al Ahram pointed out, the Libyan of ficials involved represent all active political and social forces in western Libya. Calling the talks “fruitful and constructive”,
GNA Interior Minister Bachagha said he looked forward to bolstering relations with Cairo. Although identified in the past as with the Muslim Brotherhood and known as “Turkey’s man”, Bachagha made an official visit to Cairo last November, prompting some commentators to say that he had already been “flipped”.
Prior to the Tripoli visit, General Abbas Kamel, Egypt’s chief of General Intelligence, went to Benghazi to meet with the commander of the LNA Haftar, and Libyan Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh. Kamel confirmed Egypt’s full support for Libyan unity and opposition to any further foreign interference. Cairo is clearly playing the economic card. It has offered Libya to participate cooperation in expanding the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa. Last November, Egypt’s Transporta tion Minister, Kamel Al-Wazir, announced that Egypt plans to construct a railway to Benghazi, which would give Libya direct access to both the extensive Egyptian railway network and the ambitious Suez Canal Economic Development Zone. Moreover, a Libyan business delegation will visit Cairo in February to discuss strengthening trade and investment cooperation in various sectors, including food production.
Meanwhile Turkey, while verbally supporting the political settlement talks, continues to campaign against Haftar and the Libyan National Army, which are essential to any viable agreement. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar flew into Tripoli on Dec. 26, one day before the Egyptian delegation, to meet with OMIT “Turkey’s man”, GNA Defense Minister Salahuddin Al Namroush. On Jan. 10, the latter flew to Istanbul to meet with Akar, and most likely Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.