Libya Tries to Stabilize Relations With Egypt

Article Summary
Following reports of Egyptian nationals kidnapped in Libya, authorities in Tripoli have issued statements trying to distance themselves from the Muslim Brotherhood and solidify relations with the new regime.

Mohammad Fayez Jibril, the Libyan ambassador to Egypt, affirmed that the abduction of Egyptian truck drivers in Libya was not carried out by the government, reiterating his country’s refusal to intervene in Egypt’s internal affairs. In an interview with Azzaman, he stressed that Egyptian-Libyan relationships are not tense, noting that the abduction of the truckers came as a response to the sentencing of three Libyans to life imprisonment on arms charges. "We respect the provisions of the Egyptian judiciary system," Jibril said.

Talking about the cooperation between members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Libya to stir unrest, in an attempt to deplete the capacities of the Egyptian army, Jibril told Azzaman, "This accusation is not founded on evidence. In Libya, we respect the will of the Egyptian people and distance ourselves from the internal conflict in Egypt. We do not stand by one party against the other. This is why we refused to participate in the Islamic conference discussing the Egyptian issue, because we considered it to be interference in Egyptian affairs. We refuse to intervene. Additionally, the involvement of Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood in these operations was not proven. If this were true, Egyptian authorities would have informed us."

Jibril said, "Lax security in Libya will certainly affect development and reconstruction, but will not lead to division. The groups conducting these operations are not militias in the real sense of the word. Rather, they resulted from the state of chaos created by [former President Moammar] Gadhafi’s regime, namely the collapse of institutions, police and the army. There were only [splintered] factions, along with a weak army that joined the rebels, fighting against Gadhafi’s security forces. Amid these security and economic hardships, we have taken charge of the state from scratch. Certainly, building the state requires reinforcing a non-exclusionary mindset. In general, we are in a better position now."

Regarding the ability of the Libyan government to control the situation, Jibril said, "As you mentioned, dissolving the factions that were fighting against Gadhafi's brigades will take time, especially given the easiness of carrying out smuggling operations along the lengthy Egyptian border." Jibril stressed that cooperation between the Egyptian and Libyan authorities to control the border and stop arms trafficking is important for both sides. "We are committed to an international agreement to control our border. We also concluded security agreements with neighboring countries and referred to the experiences of the EU to control the border using modern means."

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Concerning the operation where US Marines arrested al-Qaeda leader Abu Anas al-Libi near his house in Tripoli and then transported him abroad, Jibril told Azzaman," The Libyan authorities announced their stance from the beginning, denouncing this as a violation of Libya’s sovereignty. The Americans, however, announced to the world that congress had passed a law granting the United States the right to pursue any person who assaulted its citizens. Since it is capable of doing so, it carried out the operation. The United States can conduct similar operations in other places too. If Libya was a superpower, it would have done the same. I believe this operation will not affect American-Libyan relations. Libyans previously attacked the US embassy in Benghazi and we moved past that incident."

What is your explanation for the setback of the Muslim Brotherhood witnessed in the last elections?

Jibril explained that "the setback the Islamic current witnessed in the last elections, winning 29 seats out of 200, means that it does not have as much influence as some Egyptian newspapers have tried to portray," Jibril said. "We are not concerned about the Muslim Brotherhood or any other party, because Libya is the homeland of Omar Mukhtar. The latter fought a fierce war against the Italians, which claimed the lives of 50,000 martyrs and left thousands wounded. The price of freedom is greater than any political party."

Jibril told Azzaman that the issue of handing over the supporters of Gadhafi residing in Egypt was a top subject on the agenda of Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan during his visit to Cairo. He informed the Egyptian authorities of the risk these members pose to Egyptian and Libyan security and to relations between both sides. Egyptian authorities affirmed that they would deal with this issue according to the law, and would not allow the use of Egyptian land to jeopardize national security in Libya. "For our part, we call on these members to surrender themselves to the Libyan authorities so as to be tried pursuant to the law and according to the committed criminal offense," Jibril said.

"We are keen to organize the entrance of Egyptian workers to Libya to preserve their rights. The Libyan Consulate grants Egyptian workers visas for 100 Egyptian pounds [$14.50]. Unfortunately, some workers are subject to fraud operations from the part of brokers granting fake visas made in China, in exchange for large amounts of money. We are working on educating citizens so they do not believe these brokers and only refer to the consulate to get their visas. We are also cooperating with Egyptian authorities to stop these brokers," Jibril noted.

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Found in: stability, muslim brotherhood, moammar gadhafi, libya, foreign policy, egyptian foreign policy, diplomatic relations
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