Egypt calls emergency Arab League meeting on Libya

The meeting is expected to be held next week to discuss recent developments in the Libyan conflict.

al-monitor Fighters loyal to Libya's internationally recognized government celebrate after regaining control over Tarhuna, June 5, 2020.  Photo by REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny.

Jun 20, 2020

Egypt has called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League to discuss recent developments in Libya’s civil war. The meeting is expected to be held next week, the league’s assistant secretary-general, Hossam Zaki, said today.

The call comes as rogue Libyan general Khalifa Hifter — who is backed by Cairo, the United Arab Emirates and Russia — faces the worst setback yet in his campaign to take over the country.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi put forth a cease-fire proposal and called for intra-Libyan dialogue toward a political solution to the conflict earlier this month. The proposal came after Sisi met with Hifter and eastern Libya’s parliament speaker, Aguila Saleh Issa.

That meeting followed a surprise breakout by Tripoli’s forces that forced Hifter’s militias out of the country’s west, ending his Libyan National Army’s 14-month offensive. Hifter has expressed openness to a cease-fire, but the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord has so far shown little sign of willingness to negotiate, pressing its counteroffensive toward the strategic coastal city of Sirte.

The sudden reversal has led to concerns that Hifter’s foreign backers may escalate their military support in further violation of a UN arms embargo. Russia introduced fighter aircraft into the conflict in May, though it is yet unclear whether they have been used in battle. Cairo reportedly deployed armor on its western border earlier this month. Both Turkey and the UAE have introduced drones into the conflict, and Syrian mercenaries are now fighting on both sides.

Washington’s position in this decisive moment is not fully clear. President Donald Trump praised Sisi’s cease-fire proposal; David Schenker, the State Department’s top official covering the Middle East, has said the United States backs the UN-backed peace process.

Turkey, which militarily backs the Government of National Accord, rejected Cairo’s plan, dubbing it a “call to save Hifter.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said he and Trump reached agreements during a phone call June 8 that could usher in a “new era” in Libya.

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