Military intervention in Libya is 'too risky,' says Egypt's Sisi

Ahram Online , Thursday 17 Mar 2016

In Second part of interview with The Italian daily La Repubblica, President El-Sisi repeats calls for lifting the ban on weapons to Libya to support of the Tobruk government control the country

Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi
Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (AFP)

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has said that military intervention in Libya is "too risky" and that foreign powers should support the internationally-recognised government in the east of the country, the Italian daily La Repubblica reported Thursday.

"From the very beginning, Egypt has played a role in the emergence of a unified national government and has pushed in this direction together with friendly countries like Italy. We are encouraging the parliament in Tobruk to approve the unity government and are working to encourage all parties involved to assume their responsibilities," he told the Italian newspaper in an interview, the first part of which was published Wednesday.

"If we give arms and support to the Libyan National Army, it can do the job much better than anyone else, better than any external intervention that would risk putting us in a situation that could get out of hand and provoke uncontrollable developments," he said.

El-Sisi has repeatedly underlined the importance of lifting a weapons ban imposed by the United Nations on Libya in order to allow the government to fight terrorism.

Egypt supports the internationally-recognised government based in Tobruk in eastern Libya, while another government, based in the capital Tripoli, was formed and dominated by the Libyan brand of the Muslim Brotherhood.

General Khalifa Haftar, military chief of Libya's internationally recognised government, has complained that he was promised last year help from the Arab League for a "proper attack" on Islamic State (IS) extremists in the city of Sirte, but that the weapons never materialised.

For the past three years, Rome has been searching  for mechanisms to stop the flow of thousands of illegal migrants from Libyan shores to Italy.

Egypt has increased security operations along its 1,000 kilometre (600 mile) border with Libya.

El-Sisi and Italian PM Matteo Renzi have met on a number of occasions to coordinate efforts to curb illegal migration from the North African shores to Europe.

The Islamic State group has made modest inroads in parts of Libya by exploiting a security vacuum as the two rival governments continue to face off.

The Italian government has recently allowed the US to use airbases in Sicily as a launch pad for drone attacks against "terror targets" in Libya.

However, Italy has stressed on more than one occasion it would not intervene militarily in the ongoing civil war in Libya without a formal request from the Tobrouk government.

In his speech at the UN General Assembly in New York last September, El-Sisi blamed "the international community" for fomenting the Libyan crisis and the spread of terrorism there [in the first place through a short-lived NATO operation in 2011].

Today, El-Sisi complained to Italian reporters "the problem is that the Europeans look at Libya and act as if Daesh (Islamic State group) were the only threat."

"No, it is not the only manifestation of the danger, and it would be a serious mistake to focus all our attention on them. We must understand that the threat is the extremist ideology that demands that its followers kill those who are not part of the group, and be aware that we face different acronyms with the same ideology," the Egyptian president added.

"What would happen if Europe had to manage a wave of refugees two or three times bigger than it is now?" El-Sisi asked. "This is why I say we cannot focus only on the military problem in Libya."

"There are five questions that would need to be asked before taking military action: how to get in and out of Libya, who would re-establish the police and army, how to protect civilians during a mission, whether an intervention would meet the needs of all Libyans, and who would rebuild the country physically," El-Sisi said. 

Libya had descended into civil war following a Nato military operation to oust the Gaddafi regime in 2011.

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