Libya uncertainty key issue for El-Sisi during Arab League Summit in Saudi Arabia

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SOURCE: Arab News

April 16, 2018

  • Haftar is important for Egypt because he believes in the Libyan unity
  • UN is leading efforts to reunify the country

CAIRO: Uncertainty in Libya and the deadlock in Palestinian reconciliation efforts will be the main concerns of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as he attends the Arab League Summit in Dhahran.
Buoyed by his recent resounding and controversial election victory, the Egyptian president will have much to discuss with Arab leaders.
Bassam Radi, a presidential spokesman, said El-Sisi would discuss with his Arab counterparts “important issues affecting Arab security” including developments in Syria, Yemen and Palestine.
El-Sisi’s prime concern is the situation in Libya, where fears are growing over the health of the military commander Khalifa Haftar.
Haftar, one of Libya’s key power brokers, is being treated in Paris after feeling unwell during a foreign tour and is expected to return to Libya within days, Ahmed Al-Mismari, a spokesman for Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), told Reuters on Saturday.
Rumors and contradictory reports about the seriousness of his condition swirled jn the Libyan media last week, especially as Haftar had not made any public appearances recently.
Haftar, 75, is the most powerful figure in eastern Libya and his LNA is aligned with a government based in the east which has opposed a rival government in the capital, Tripoli.
On Friday, UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame and several Libyan officials said they had spoken to Haftar by phone.

Haftar won the backing of Egypt when he arrived as a stabilizing force confronting Islamist and extremist forces in the country’s east, which borders Egypt.
El-Sisi met the head of the Presidential Council of Libya Fayez Al-Sarraj in Dammam on Saturday and urged all the Libyan political factions to cooperate with the UN envoy to restore peace to the troubled state, according to presidential spokesperson Bassam Radi.
“This is the most important part of the Arab Summit agenda for Egypt since Libya’s situation affects the Egyptian national security. Egypt played a significant role and has invested politically to control the terrorist attacks on its Western borders,” said Mohamed Farahat, a political analyst.
“Haftar is important for Egypt because he believes in the Libyan unity and he also proposed a project to build the Libyan unified army and this is what makes him special as a leader.”
El-Sisi has also invested a lot of political capital in reconciling the two main warring Palestinian factions and a return to peace talks with Israel.
Abbas Kamel, senior political and security aide to El-Sisi, visited both Ramallah, home of the Palestinian Authority, and Tel Aviv last week to lay the groundwork for the Arab Summit to adopt a resolution expressing willingness to engage with a US peace plan.
The aim of the talks is not only to persuade Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to approve the launch of negotiations but to convince Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to exercise restraint before what he sees as the perfect opportunity to deal a blow to Hezbollah and limit Iran’s presence in Syria.

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