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Egypt's Sisi says time to end Libya's militia 'chaos', external interference

UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame last month unveiled plans for an international conference to bring together foreign powers backing rival groups on the ground, without naming a venue.

FILE: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. Picture: United Nations Photo

UNITED NATIONS - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Tuesday that a concerted effort was needed to stop militias taking control of Libya and to prevent external actors from intervening there.

Libya’s conflict has increasingly become a proxy war between foreign powers, which have been backing various armed groups since the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi. The former rebels have been fighting each other since then.

“We also need to work on unifying all national institutions in order to save our dear neighbour from the ensuing chaos by militias and prevent the intervention of external actors in Libya’s internal affairs,” Sisi said in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

Egypt, along with the United Arab Emirates, is a supporter of Libyan eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, whose Libya National Army (LNA) has been trying to take Tripoli from forces allied with the internationally recognized government (GNA). Turkey backs the GNA.

Haftar’s forces started their campaign in April with a ground offensive supported by airstrikes and his backers have repeatedly labelled militias in Tripoli as terrorist groups.

The campaign has displaced more than 120,000 people in Tripoli alone, killed hundreds of civilians, and risks disrupting oil supplies from the country.

“This conflict needs to be stopped. It is time to take a bold and decisive stand to address the root causes of the Libyan crisis comprehensively and can be achieved by fully committing to the United Nations plan,” Sisi said.

UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame last month unveiled plans for an international conference to bring together foreign powers backing rival groups on the ground, without naming a venue.

Germany has emerged as a possible location with Berlin trying to put it together by October. Salame believes it can mediate as Germany is seen as impartial in the conflict in contrast to France and Italy, which have been competing for influence. France and Italy have oil and gas interests in Libya and have been accused of also backing protagonists in the conflict.

Both countries brought Haftar and GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, along with regional players, together at summits in Paris and Palermo last year, but failed to achieve a breakthrough.

The two countries will host a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Thursday, which they say aims to move towards the UN-backed conference.

“There will no military solution in Libya. Those who believe it are wrong and risk dragging the country into a dramatic turn,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters.