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Egypt calls for lifting arms embargo on Libyan government

Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry discussed in New York the possibility of lifting an ongoing weapons embargo on the Libyan government

Ahram Online and AFP, Wednesday 18 Feb 2015
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Egypt's Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry (Photo: Al-Ahram)
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Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has discussed with a number of fellow diplomats in New York the possibility of lifting an ongoing arms embargo on the Libyan government.

Egypt, in cooperation with Libya, launched on Monday airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Libya’s Derna, in retribution for the beheading of 21 Coptic Egyptians in the troubled country.

Shoukry cited that the Libyan government, “being the legitimate authority,” should be equipped with “weapons and resources to establish stability and fend off terrorism.”

However, the foreign minister said a political solution is also on the table, under the auspices of the UN, “with Libyan sides who reject violence.”

Shoukry also asked that the necessary measures be implemented to stop illegal weapons from reaching militants.

The FM said regional countries should help the Libyan government to re-establish stability.

In February 2011, the UN imposed the embargo on Libya citing “violent repression of civilian demonstrators” by former president Muammar Gaddafi.

Fear of militant alliance

Libya has descended into chaos since the 2011 revolt, with the internationally recognised government forced to flee to the country's east and militias in control of Tripoli and other main cities.

Some militias have pledged allegiance to IS -- the brutal Sunni Muslim group in control of large parts of Syria and Iraq -- and one of them released this week a video of the gruesome mass beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians.

The country's main militias, including the Islamist-backed Fajr Libya coalition that has declared a rival government in Tripoli and has been involved in the peace talks, have not linked up with IS.

But Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni warned of the threat of such an alliance.

"There is an evident risk of an alliance being forged between local groups and Daesh, and it is a situation that has to be monitored with maximum attention," Gentiloni said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

"We have to be clear, the situation has deteriorated. The time at our disposal is not infinite and is in danger of running out soon," he said while stressing that Italy believed in a political solution.

"Saying we are in the front line does not mean announcing adventures or crusades."

The chaos in Libya has also contributed to a dramatic increase in the number of migrants attempting to travel across the Mediterranean from the country to Europe.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said "there is no choice" but to form an international coalition to tackle Libya's militants by force.

Experts say Sisi wants to be seen as a key ally of the West against extremism, deflecting international criticism of the regime's crackdown on Islamists following the ouster of Islamsit president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Shoukry is currently in the United States to attend a Security Council meeting, requested by Egypt, on the Libyan situation. The meeting will take place Wednesday at 8 pm (GMT).

 

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