Egyptian President Meets Libyan Speaker Of Parliament And Powerful Military Commander As Cairo Calls For The Withdrawal Of Foreign Forces And Mercenaries From Its Western Neighbor
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi received President Aguila Saleh and General Khalifa Hifter, commander of the so-called Libyan Arab Armed Forces in Cairo, the Egyptian leader’s office said in a statement.
El-Sisi said his government would continue its efforts “with all the Libyan brothers (…) to organize the meaningful presidential and parliamentary vote by the end of this year”.
He also reiterated his calls for the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from the oil-rich country.
Saleh and Hifter, whose forces rule most parts of eastern and southern Libya and oil installations, are close allies to Egypt. In recent months, al-Sisi’s government has also contacted officials in western Libya, apparently to counteract Turkey’s influence there.
Libya has been in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and divided the oil-rich country between rival governments, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments .
In April 2019, Hifter’s forces, backed by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive in an attempt to capture Tripoli. His 14-month campaign collapsed after Turkey and Qatar stepped up military support for the Tripoli-based government with hundreds of Turkish troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.
The UN-sponsored peace talks resulted in a ceasefire last October and put in place an interim government that is expected to lead the country until the December elections. The ceasefire agreement also required the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries within three months, a deadline that was never met.
The UN estimated that there were 20,000 foreign forces and mercenaries, mostly Syrians, Turks, Russians and Sudanese, in the North African nation. The presence of foreign fighters and mercenaries is a major obstacle to the holding of the planned elections.
Libyan lawmakers failed to finalize a legal framework for the vote, casting doubt on the electoral timetable.
Under increasing international pressure, parliament passed a controversial presidential election law earlier this month and said it was in the process of finalizing it for parliamentary elections, according to the UN envoy to Libya.
However, the High Council of State, an executive institution that proposes electoral laws among other things, complained that the law was passed without consulting its members, which could derail the roadmap.