Haftar, El-Sisi hold talks as Libya death toll rises to 120

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi, right, meets with the head of the self-styled Libyan National Army, Gen. Khalifa Haftar, in Cairo, Egypt, on April 14, 2019. (Egyptian Presidency Media office via AP)
Updated 15 April 2019
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Haftar, El-Sisi hold talks as Libya death toll rises to 120

  • International pressure mounts for halt to Tripoli offensive
  • Egypt says it supports UN efforts for a political solution as the only option to preserve Libya’s safety and territorial integrity

CAIRO:  Eastern Libyan forces commander Khalifa Haftar met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for talks in Cairo on Monday amid mounting international pressure for a halt to the battle of Tripoli.

More than 120 people have been killed and nearly 600 wounded in fighting since Haftar launched an offensive on April 4 to take the Libyan capital.

Libya’s UN-backed government said it shot down a Haftar fighter jet south of the capital Tripoli on Sunday. Haftar’s forces confirmed the loss of a MiG-23 but attributed it to a technical failure.

Egypt has in the past urged all parties in Libya to exercise restraint and stop escalation. It has close ties with Haftar, whose Libyan National Army (LNA) controls the east and swept through the mainly desert south this year before moving on to Tripoli.

The Libyan commander has modelled his political style of authoritarian leadership after El-Sisi, himself an army general turned president.

After Sunday’s talks the Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed deep concern about the fighting. It said Egypt supported UN efforts for a political solution as the only option to preserve Libya’s safety and territorial integrity, and protect its people.

A statement from El-Sisi’s office did not mention Haftar’s offensive directly but “confirmed Egypt’s support for efforts to combat terrorism and extremist groups and militias in order to achieve security and stability for the Libyan citizen.”

Dr. Ziad Aql, Libyan affairs expert at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Arab News Haftar’s ultimate goal was to become the leading force in Libya. “This can happen in a number of different ways, whether it be through elections, a negotiated solution that puts him at the head of a Libyan army free from civilian control, or through military victory,” he said.

“Egypt wants a diplomatic solution to avoid more bloodshed among the Arab people. Egypt supports a military solution only in confrontations against terrorism.”

Leading analyst Anas Al-Qassas said Sunday’s meeting was significant. “It could involve El-Sisi urging Haftar to stop the military campaign,” he said. “He may have brought a message from America, perhaps other things, but the situation is certainly inflamed and could lead to an explosion in Libya.”

Haftar’s campaign has disrupted efforts by the UN to bring rival eastern and western administrations to the negotiating table to plan an election and end the turmoil. 

“Our position will not change,” UN envoy Ghassan Salame said. “You’ve learned and tasted war. No matter how obstinate one becomes, there is no solution except a political one.”

Haftar, who was exiled in the United States for two decades, returned to Libya in 2011 when the revolution erupted, commanding forces that eventually toppled dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

The oil-rich north African country has been in turmoil ever since with successive weak governments in place and several Islamist militias battling for territorial control.

 


Sudan’s army calls for unconditional talks with protesters

Updated 50 min 15 sec ago
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Sudan’s army calls for unconditional talks with protesters

  • Protest leaders have set conditions for a resumption of talks, including a withdrawal of the military and militias from cities
  • At least 128 people were killed across the country since security forces cleared the sit-in area outside the military’s headquarters

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s military council said talks on the transition of power should resume without preconditions, signaling a continued standoff with opposition leaders who launched nighttime demonstrations to push for civilian rule.
Protest leaders have set conditions for a resumption of talks, including a withdrawal of the military and militias from cities, the resumption of Internet service and an international investigation of the violent razing of their sit-in camp on June 3.
Transition talks collapsed over the military’s crackdown.
At least 128 people were killed across the country since security forces cleared the sit-in area outside the military’s headquarters. Authorities offer a lower death toll of 61, including three from security forces.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the council, told health workers in Khartoum on Wednesday that the council did not have preconditions for returning to the negotiating table with the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, which has represented protesters.
He said neither side should make up-front demands.
“I repeat our invitation to all political forces and the FDFC to come (for talks), and there is no need for preconditions,” he said. “We do not deny their role in the uprising and the popular revolution ..., but the solution should be satisfactory to all Sudanese factions.”
Protest leaders could not be reached immediately for comment.
On Saturday, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association said it would stick to its conditions for the resumption of talks.
Meanwhile, protest leaders launched nighttime protests this week.
Late Wednesday, about 300 protesters, mostly young people, marched in Khartoum’s western district of Abbasiya, waving Sudanese flags and calling for justice for those killed since the sit-in dispersal.
Protesters avoid daytime demonstrations for fear of being quashed by security forces heavily deployed in Khartoum.
The military council has rejected the idea of an international probe and said it had started its own investigation along with another one by prosecutors.
An Ethiopian initiative to resume talks apparently failed to make progress in the deadlock. A top general in the military council pushed back last week against a key demand from the protest leaders to have the majority in a transitional legislative body.
Burhan said that the country cannot remain without a government, more than three months after the military ousted autocratic President Omar Al-Bashir in April.
“We do not want that things (get) out of control,” Burhan said. “Another coup could be carried out because of the country’s impasse.”