CAIRO (AP) – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has supported a transitional government that would rule neighboring Libya in elections later this year.
In rare televised comments on Saturday night, Sisi said Friday’s appointment of the interim government, which includes a three-member Presidential Council and a prime minister, was “a step in the right direction.”
The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, which includes 75 delegates chosen by the UN from across the country, has appointed Mohammad Younes Menfi, a Libyan diplomat from the east of the country, as chairman of the Presidential Council. The forum also chose Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, a powerful businessman from the western city of Misrata, as prime minister.
The three council members each represent a region of ancient Libya: Tripolitania to the west, Cyrenaica to the east and Fezzan to the southwest. The country’s divided parliament is tasked with confirming the new government within three weeks. If it doesn’t, the forum will confirm.
The appointment of an interim government crowns months of UN-brokered talks that resulted in an agreement to hold elections on December 24.
âWe support them. â¦ We are ready to cooperate with them for the recovery of Libya and to prepare for the elections in Libya, âSisi said.
The Egyptian leader said his threat last year to send troops to Libya helped “usher in a period of real peace” in the oil-rich country. Egypt views the instability in neighboring Libya as a threat to national security.
In June, Sisi called the strategic coastal city of Sirte a âred lineâ and warned that any attack by Turkey-backed Tripoli forces on the city would prompt Egypt to intervene to protect its western border. The move – if it had happened – would have brought Egypt and Turkey, close allies of the United States who support rival parties in the conflict, to a direct confrontation.
Sirte, which lies near Libya’s main oil export terminals and fields, is held by the forces of military commander Khalifa Hifter, a close ally of Egypt, who rules most areas in the east and from southern Libya.
Libya fell into chaos after the 2011 uprising that overthrew and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The country has been divided since 2015 between two governments, one in the east and one in the west, each supported by an array of militias and foreign governments.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates support Hifter’s forces. The government in Tripoli has mainly the backing of Turkey, whose military backing contributed to the failure this spring of Hifter’s year-long attempt to capture Tripoli.
The appointment of an interim government was seen as a major, albeit uncertain, step towards the unification of the North African nation.
US Ambassador Richard Norland on Saturday urged Prime Minister-elect Dbeibah to “identify a small, capable and technocratic cabinet team that the parliament based in eastern Libya could quickly trust.”
An interim government would face daunting challenges, including deteriorating living conditions and an increase in coronavirus cases.
The oil-rich country, with around 7 million people, has reported more than 124,000 cases, including 1,953 deaths. However, the actual number of COVID-19 cases, like elsewhere in the world, is believed to be much higher, in part due to the limited number of tests.
Other challenges include the dismantling of many heavily armed local militias and the presence of at least 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters who had fought on both sides in the struggle for Tripoli.
Image: FILE – In this file photo from December 7, 2020, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi speaks at a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace on Monday, December 7 2020 in Paris. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has supported a transitional government that would rule neighboring Libya in elections later this year. (AP Photo / Michel Euler, File)