Egypt calls for immediate withdrawal of mercenary forces in Libya

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

On Saturday, Egypt announced a unilateral ceasefire between the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli and the forces of General Khalifa Hafdar’s Libyan National Army which has its stronghold in the Eastern part of the country. Libya has been in the grips of a civil war since the fall of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 which has since evolved into a proxy war between various international powers. Considering the Hafdar forces have been facing a series of setbacks in the recent weeks, the call of ceasefire isn’t being heeded to seriously by the GNA.

On the opposite side, the GNA has the backing of Turkey, Italy and Qatar, in addition to being recognised as the official government of Libya by the UN and other Western powers. Both the sides have been using militias and their backers have been sending in mercenaries, particularly from war-torn Syria, to try and prevail in the years-long war.

 Over the past weeks, Hafdar has been suffering a series of setbacks which culminated in him being pushed out of his position in Tripoli, effectively ending his 14-month offensive on the capital. Following this, his stronghold in Tarhuna has also been seized, this being the base from which Hafdar was targeting Tripoli. It is in this scenario that the meeting between Hafdar and his backers took place.

Naturally, the GNA is planning further offensives towards the East to capture more key cities like Sirte which are under Hafdar. The GNA has not responded to the ceasefire appeal, though its spokespersons have unofficially said that they will not be backing down and Hafdar is in no position to lay down terms of disengagement when he is on the backfoot. The meeting was attended by diplomatic representatives from US, Russia, France and Italy, while Turkey and Qatar gave it a miss.

Egypt is reportedly reaching out to various envoys to ensure the implementation of the ceasefire. Speaking at the conference, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said this was needed in order to pave way for peace and elections in Tripoli. He also impressed on the need to remove all mercenary forces from the country. Turkey’s help in this regard has been considered a big factor in the GNA’s recent victories. El-Sisi’s government is currently in talks with many European countries as well, possibly hoping they could help sway Turkey.

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