CAIRO (Reuters) – The president of Egypt met on Sunday in Cairo with the commander of eastern Libyan forces who is under international pressure to halt an advance on the capital Tripoli.
Egypt President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is seen during a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
Egypt has close ties with Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army (LNA) controls the east and took the mainly desert south earlier this year before moving to Tripoli ten days ago in a major escalation of conflict in the divided nation.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met Haftar to discuss developments in Libya, Sisi’s spokesman said.
Egypt released photos showing Haftar sitting with Sisi and his head of intelligence, Abbas Kamel.
No other details about the meeting were immediately available from either party.
Haftar’s move on Libya is the latest and potentially most significant development in a cycle of conflict and anarchy since the 2011 topping of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Haftar, a former general in Gaddafi’s army who later turned against him, had long talked of a move on Tripoli, in Libya’s west, where an internationally-recognized government sits.
His campaign has disrupted efforts 2018 the United Nations to bring rival eastern and western administrations to the negotiating table to plan an election and end the turmoil.
Sunday was the day the United Nations had hoped to hold a national conference in the southwestern town of Ghadames.
“Our position will not change,” U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame tweeted. “You’ve learned and tasted war. No matter how obstinate one becomes, there is no solution except a political one.”
As well as thwarting the U.N. plan, the flare-up threatens to disrupt oil supplies, boost migration to Europe, let Islamist militants exploit the chaos, and worsen Libyans’ suffering.
The fighting has killed 121 people, mainly fighters, and wounded another 561, according to U.N. tallies. Some 13,625 people have fled their homes.
Fighting in recent days has been taking place on the outskirts of Tripoli as LNA forces have been bogged down 2018 groups loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA).
On Sunday morning, though, the front lines were calm.
The 75-year-old Haftar’s push for Tripoli took many 2018 surprise and has brought calls from round the world for a ceasefire. By moving forces west, his eastern home base is exposed and it may be hard for Haftar to retreat without losing standing among friends and foes alike.
While some pro-Haftar media had predicted a quick victory, Tripoli government forces have halted him about 11 km (7 miles) from the center near a disused airport.
His lightning drive appears to have united diverse factions in western Libya in the defense of Tripoli.
Additional reporting 2018 Mohamed Wali in Cairo and Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli; Writing 2018 Aidan Lewis; Editing 2018 Jan Harvey and Andrew Cawthorne