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Libya's neighbors may provide new framework to end crisis

Libya's neighboring states are expected to furnish a new settlement framework for the war-torn North African country as their influence and coordination have recently increased with Egypt and Algeria acting as key regional actors.

Top diplomats from Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Chad, Niger and Tunisia, as well as the Arab League (AL) chief and UN envoy met in Cairo on Saturday and a communique urged dialogue between conflicting Libyan factions and reiterated the rejection of any foreign military interference in Libya.

Six years after the 2011 uprising ended the 42-year rule of Muammar Gaddafi and his life, Libya is currently engaged in a civil war and run by two rival administrations.

One administration is in the capital Tripoli and the other is in Tobruk city in the east, and Islamic State (IS) terrorist group militants found it a fitting environment for their activities.

Neighbors Influence

Cairo's recent efforts to host the main Libyan rivals and its push for a regional active role of Libya's neighbors revived hope toward reaching a settlement under a new framework outlined by the group in coordination with the AL, the UN and other international bodies when necessary but without military interference.

"Via their rising role, Libya's neighbors could help push forward the crisis resolution, yet the situation depends on Libyans themselves, who are regrettably severely divided," said veteran diplomat Ahmed Haggag, head of the Egyptian African Association.

Haggag, who is also Egypt's former ambassador to several African states, emphasized that efforts exerted by Libya's neighboring countries are attempting to gather various Libyan factions for dialogue as the first significant step for a genuine settlement.

"Efforts by Libya's neighbors should continue as they are able to bring conflicting parties together, whether in Tripoli, Benghazi or Tobruk, to the negotiation table," the ex-diplomat told Xinhua, lamenting that "the continuous armed conflict bred outlaws around the country's various borders as well as the expansion of IS."

Political science professor Mohamed Kamal described Libya's neighboring states' ministerial meetings as "important and positive," noting they are keen to resolve the crisis as it directly affects them via its implications.

"Libya's neighbors have relations with several key factions involved in the Libyan crisis, so constant meetings and coordination are necessary to reach an agreement between the rival parties in Libya," the professor told Xinhua.

Egypt, Algeria Key Players

The civil war in post-Gaddafi Libya escalated in 2014 and resulted in the splitting of power between two rival governments in Tripoli and Tobruk.

Tobruk was internationally recognized before the Libyan Presidential Council (PC) was established in 2015 to run a unity government in Tripoli as per a UN-brokered peace deal between Libyan factions reached in Skhirat, Morocco.

"The chaotic situation makes Libya's political forces unable to make political decisions alone. So, political decisions in eastern Libya are mostly made in coordination with Egypt and those in western Libya in coordination with Algeria," said Zeyad Aql, researcher at the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and an expert on Libyan affairs.

Aql said it's a farfetched goal to reach a settlement in Libya without coordination between Egypt and Algeria as key regional players in the Libyan case, noting that recent Egyptian efforts refreshed the stagnant Libyan situation.

Egypt has hosted high-profile talks between Libyan parties including head of Libya's unity government Fayez Serraj and head of the Libyan parliament Aqila Saleh in an attempt to resolve the political deadlock in the conflict-stricken country.

Aql explained that Egypt's communication with Libyan factions used to focus on eastern Libya's parliament and the national army led by Marshall Khalifa Haftar, but eventually they extended to involve western Libya including Tripoli's government and the military forces in Misrata.

"I believe that before the end of 2017, there will be a new, structured framework for a Libyan settlement, with new actors including Haftar and Bonyan Marsous forces which cleared the last IS hideout in Sirte," Aql told Xinhua, expecting the new deal to be an amendment of the Skhirat Agreement in coordination with Egypt and Algeria.

Haftar Recognition

Supported by the self-proclaimed Libyan national army led by Marshall Haftar, the parliament-backed government in Tobruk refuses to recognize the UN-backed, Tripoli-based unity government run by the PC.

"Despite Western attempts to consider Tripoli's government as the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people, the internationally-recognized and freely-elected Libyan parliament has not yet approved it, and this cannot be disregarded," veteran diplomat Haggag told Xinhua.

Haftar is gaining ground in time, and now an agreement in Misrata exists to have him command the Libyan military, which is a favorable change of position for the military strongman.

The Skhirat Agreement puts Haftar and his armed forces under the Tripoli-based PC administration.

Therefore, to reach a settlement framework, Libya's neighbors' recent meeting expressed a compatible position abiding by the Skhirat deal yet stressed the need for its amendment.

"Egypt exerted substantial efforts to support Marshal Haftar which led some Libyan factions who had previously ejected Haftar to currently accept the idea of his leadership of Libya's military," political researcher Aql told Xinhua.

[Source: By Mahmoud Fouly, Xinhua, Cairo, 23Jan17]

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small logoThis document has been published on 24Jan17 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.