Ever since the tornado of ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions overran the Middle East in 2011, the region has been a hotbed of conflict. In all the countries involved, Islamists rose to power and, in all cases, the peoples of these countries found out first hand the truth about Islamist rule. They discovered it was all about making the Arab Spring countries parts of a pan-world Islamic caliphate; and that Islamists cared nothing for the people of the land or their needs, and were retrogressive and vicious. Egyptians did not take it for long; exactly one year after the Muslim Brothers (MB) rose to power the people, backed by the army, brought them down in July 2013 and established a secular State. Other countries were not so successful. In Libya, Syria, and Iraq conflicts rage between armed Islamist militias and spill over into neighbouring countries.
Libya, especially, with its more than 1000km common border with Egypt, has been a cause of serious concern for Egyptians and for Libya’s western neighbours in Algeria and Tunisia.
Libya’s neighbours realise the necessity of cooperating with the Libyan government to settle the unrest there. Last week saw Egypt propose an initiative to bring an end to the conflict in Libya.
The initiative is based upon respecting Libyan unity, sovereignty, political independence and territorial safety; and confirming a commitment to dialogue, renunciation of violence, and support of the political process to resolve problems.
It proposed a number of measures that were formulated in the presence of Libya’s immediate neighbours, and stressed that they should be reported to the United Nations and other international organisations concerned. These measures focused mainly on the immediate halt of armed operations, the renunciation of violence and promotion of dialogue to achieve national reconciliation and write a new constitution. This meant that all the militias should renounce violence and hand in their arms according to a timed plan supervised by Libya’s neighbours and supported by the international community. The international community, on its part, was called upon to stop providing the militias with weapons, and to ban any entry of arms into Libya save for the legitimate government and after the approval of the sanctions committee of the Security Council.
The initiative also called for an end to terrorism, organised cross-border crime and other illegal activities, as well as for drying up the funding of terrorist activity. It demanded that the international community should help Libya secure its borders and rebuild its State institutions—especially parliament, police, and the military—to enhance peace, stability, security, and development.
It was proposed that penalties should be applied against groups or individuals who obstruct the political peace process, and that the Foreign Ministries of Libya’s neighbours and Arab and African envoys should follow up on the implementation of the initiative measures.
Egypt was assigned to inform the UN Security Council, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the General Secretariat of the Arab League, the African Union Commission and the Spanish government of the initiative which should be addressed at the Madrid conference on 17 September 2014.
A fifth meeting of Libya’s neighbours should be convened in Khartoum on a date to be agreed upon.
The Libyan Foreign Minister, Muhammad Abdel-Aziz, welcomed the Egyptian initiative, explaining that Libya does not at the moment need military interference, but rather efforts at stability and enhancing legitimacy. Mr Abdel-Aziz said Libya needs to build a strong army, police, and intelligence service to protect its airports, oil wells, exportable resources, and all vital institutions; in order to be able to rebuild the broken-down country. He stressed the fact that his country was asking for no military intervention; only for a more enhanced presence for the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry said that Egypt, together with the other neighbours of Libya, was doing its best on the political front to meet the aspirations of the Libyan people and avoid any outside interference.
“The initiative confirms that Egypt is back to her traditional leading role as peacemaker among her neighbours,” says political and international relations expert Saeed Lawandi. He insists that the initiative is totally removed from interference in Libya’s internal affairs, but aims at reconciling parties living in the same homeland and at enhancing dialogue between them to achieve stability. The initiative is significant in that it should put an end to internal sectarian and ethnic strife that could end up dividing Libya, and should halt bloodshed. It also seeks to build an Arab coalition in the face of any attempts by Western countries or by Qatar, Turkey and Iran to abort the initiative.
Political science professor Tareq Fahmy applauds the fact that Libya’s neighbours have given prime importance to Libyan legitimacy as represented in parliament, despite reservations on form and tasks, he says.
On 27 August, the Security Council issued resolution number 2174 calling for an immediate ceasefire in Libya and the widening of international sanctions to include individuals and groups that threaten security, peace and stability in Libya through a specialised committee affiliated to the Security Council.
Sanctions that previously applied to elements of the former regime will currently include individuals and entities that commit or assist in committing any acts that threaten security, peace and stability in Libya or obstruct the political process.
The resolution targets those who breach human rights, attack infrastructure such as airports, seaports and diplomatic international places in Libya. It also includes individuals and institutions that support armed groups and organised crime through the illegal use of petrol resources in Libya.
On the other hand, the resolution stated the necessity of obtaining the approval of the assigned committee (Sanctions Department) to provide, sell or transfer any weapons to Libya.
Egypt has halted a number of Libyan TV channels that broadcast their programmes through the Egyptian satellite NileSat. The move came in response to the interim Libyan government’s request, which said that the channels incited violence and hatred.
Recent clashes at Tripoli airport between the Fagr Libya and Zanatan factions had led to the death of 250 and injury of more than 1,000, while 12,652 families left Tripoli. On Monday 1 September, the Islamist Fagr Libya captured the airport and all government buildings in Tripoli, and announced they had Libya’s four major towns: Tripoli, Benghazi, Sabratha, and Misrata under their control. The Libyan government said it had lost control over all its institutions in Tripoli.
The Fagr Libya Islamists broke into the abandoned US embassy building in Tripoli, loitering in the empty halls and offices and diving from the first floor balcony into the swimming pool. It must be remembered that it was NATO drones which finally finished off the Libyan resistance to the Arab Spring in 2011.
The US and other countries had evacuated their embassy staff in July 2014 as fighting escalated for control of Tripoli.
Senior government officials and the elected parliament last month moved, for security reasons, to the eastern city of Tobruk. Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, who had little less than a week earlier handed in his government’s resignation to the newly elected parliament, was reappointed last Monday.
Fagr Libya called on the previous [Islamist majority] parliament to reconvene but the UN said it would only back the elected body.
Peace is returning to Tripoli,but it is a peace of sorts, since anarchy continues to grip the whole country. Will the Egyptian initiative stand any chance to bring about peace?
3 September 2014