Much remains unclear about Egypt’s role and the future of the outcomes of Libyan peace negotiations in Geneva and Bouznika.
Rabat – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received today in Cairo Libyan National Army (LNA) Commander Khalifa Haftar and Speaker of the Tobruk-based parliament Aguila Saleh Issa, representing Libya’s Eastern faction. The meeting follows the resignation of Libya’s eastern parliament and the reemergence of Haftar in a televised speech on September 18.
The two leaders discussed developments and ceasefire efforts in Libya with al-Sisi, according to a statement from Egyptian Presidency Spokesperson Bassam Rady. Egypt’s Intelligence chief Abbas Kamel was also present.
The meeting follows al-Sisi’s indication on Tuesday that Egypt could intervene in Libya if fighting reached the strategic city of Sirte. Such a move could jeopardize the encouraging outcomes of recent talks between representatives of the eastern parliament and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).
Egypt has supported Haftar’s faction and is seen as a key party in realizing peace. The extent of Egypt’s role recently came into question, however, when the rival Libyan parties realized an unexpected ceasefire at the end of August. Haftar had received a mysterious verbal message from al-Sisi during a meeting with Kamel. The development came after Haftar disappeared from the public eye and the LNA made a dramatic shift towards peace.
The country became eager to restart its important oil industry at the establishment of the ceasefire. Haftar’s control over the region was long a stumbling block that the meeting in Egypt could possibly have addressed.
Haftar’s LNA forces remain in Libya’s oil fields, a key concern of Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC). The NOC has demanded that LNA troops leave the oil producing region before it can fully restart production. Those demands have yet to materialize, but Haftar announced the resumption of Libya’s oil production. GNA Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj confirmed the news, throwing the authority in the region into question.
Libya’s vital oil economy is slowly resuming its operation, providing an economic lifeline to the country. A Delta Hellas tanker arrived at Libya’s Marsa el-Hariga port on Wednesday, the first tanker to do so since January. The vessel is set to load one million barrels of Libyan crude which should provide some revenue to the cash-strapped nation.
The outcome of al-Sisi’s meeting with Haftar and Saleh remains unknown. After significant GNA victories, the city of Sirte was set to be the next battleground in the Libyan war. Egypt had stated that fighting in Sirte would force Egypt to intervene militarily, but the unexpected cease-fire materialized before such measures became necessary.
With the world watching the Libyan peace process, much remains unclear about Egyptian influence on Libya’s eastern leadership. The outcome of today’s meeting could signal the end of the conflict, or it could reignite tensions after several weeks without significant fighting in the war-torn country.