Egypt calls for ‘return of the Libyan capital’

Joel Gulhane
3 Min Read

Libya’s internationally recognised government ordered Tuesday for the Libyan armed forces to retake Tripoli, which has been overrun by militia groups.

Egypt’s foreign ministry said Tuesday it is “keen” on the “unity and integrity of Libyan lands”. The ministry added that the “practices of militias against the legitimate institutions of the state… has led to the aggravation of the military and security situation”.

Libya’s Tobruk-based government called on citizens in Tripoli to embark upon a campaign of “civil disobedience” until the arrival of the armed forces. The forces are charged with liberating the city “and state institutions from the grip of armed groups”.

The move comes days after the House of Representatives (HoR), lead by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, backed Khalifa Haftar, a former general who has been waging a unilateral military campaign to wipe out Islamists from Libya. The move came a day after the US, UK, France, Italy and Germany condemned both Haftar and Islamist militia group Ansar Al-Sharia for their actions.

Islamist militant coalition Libya Dawn took control of Tripoli over the summer following violent battles in and around the capital city. The militants had backed the predominantly Islamist General National Congress, which was scheduled to hand over power in June to the newly elected House of Representatives. Instead, the militants  named their own rival Prime Minister Omar Al-Hassi.

Egypt, neighbouring countries, and the international community have expressed deep concern over the escalating conflict in Libya. The conflict has seen the state fragment less than three years after the overthrow and death of long time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Earlier this week Egypt played host to Libyan tribal elders and leaders in an attempt to unify them in support of the House of Representatives. The Egyptian government, which has conducted a crackdown on Islamist groups domestically since the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi, has denied involvement in a series of airstrikes against Islamist targets in Tripoli. The House of Representatives has also denied Egyptian military involvement inside Libya.

Egypt along with ten other countries, the European Union, and the United Nations supported a political dialogue as the solution to the situation in Libya, dismissing a military solution. Egypt’s Tuesday statement stressed that “all parties abandon a military option, and begin a political dialogue in parallel with the start of the process of handing over the militias’ weapons gradually to the official Libyan authorities”.

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Joel Gulhane is a journalist with an interest in Egyptian and regional politics. Follow him on Twitter @jgulhane
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