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

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.

 


Iran backtracks on plan to send flight recorders to Ukraine

Updated 54 min ago

Iran backtracks on plan to send flight recorders to Ukraine

  • An Iranian official said “the flight recorders from the Ukrainian Boeing are in Iranian hands and we have no plans to send them out”
  • He said Iran is working to recover the data and cabin recordings, and that it may send the flight recorders to Ukrain or France

TEHRAN: The Iranian official leading the investigation into the Ukrainian jetliner that was accidentally shot down by the Revolutionary Guard appeared to backtrack Sunday on plans to send the flight recorders abroad for analysis, a day after saying they would be sent to Kyiv.
Hassan Rezaeifar was quoted by the state-run IRNA news agency as saying “the flight recorders from the Ukrainian Boeing are in Iranian hands and we have no plans to send them out.”
He said Iran is working to recover the data and cabin recordings, and that it may send the flight recorders — commonly known as black boxes — to Ukraine or France. “But as of yet, we have made no decision.”
The same official was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Saturday as saying the recorders would be sent to Ukraine, where French, American and Canadian experts would help analyze them. Iranian officials previously said the black boxes were damaged but are usable.
It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts. Iran may be hesitant to turn over the recorders for fear that more details from the crash — including the harrowing 20 seconds between when the first and second surface-to-air missiles hit the plane — will come to light.
The Guard’s air defenses shot the plane down shortly after it took off from Tehran on Jan. 8, killing all 176 people on board. Hours earlier, the Guard had launched ballistic missiles at US troops in Iraq in response to the US airstrike that killed Iran’s top general in Baghdad. Officials say lower-level officers mistook the plane for a US cruise missile.
Iranian officials initially said the crash was caused by a technical problem and invited countries that lost citizens to help investigate. Three days later, Iran admitted responsibility after Western leaders said there was strong evidence the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile.
The victims included 57 Canadian citizens as well as 11 Ukrainians, 17 people from Sweden, four Afghans and four British citizens. Most of those killed were Iranians. The other five nations have demanded Iran accept full responsibility and pay compensation to the victims’ families.
The plane was a Boeing 737-800 that was designed and built in the US The plane’s engine was designed by CFM International, a joint company between French group Safran and US group GE Aviation. Investigators from both countries have been invited to take part in the probe.