Middle East

Egypt's Sisi pushes for December elections in Libya

Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar gestures as he speaks during Independence Day celebrations in Benghazi, Libya December 24, 2020. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori/File Photo

CAIRO: Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pledged support Thursday for elections in Libya in talks with interim prime minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, days after meeting strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Sisi "stressed the importance of the upcoming Libyan elections in respecting and activating the free will of the ... Libyan people," a presidency statement said.

During a visit to Tripoli on Tuesday, US Department of State Counsellor Derek Chollet said the war-torn country had "the best opportunity ... in a decade to bring the conflict to closure".

An interim government was established earlier this year to lead conflict-ridden Libya towards December 24 parliamentary and presidential polls.

Parliament speaker Aguila Saleh, who also met Sisi alongside Haftar, ratified a law last week governing the presidential elections.

Critics accused him of failing to follow due process and seeking to favour Haftar.

The mercurial general, who lived in the US state of Virginia for decades before returning during the revolution, leads forces that have de facto control over Libya's east and part of the south.

He is increasingly expected to run in the country's presidential poll later this year.

Cairo has long been seen as one of Haftar's main supporters.

Egypt's war-scarred neighbour is trying to extricate itself from a decade of turmoil following the 2011 toppling of dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

In recent years, the country has been split between rival administrations backed by foreign powers including Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

In his meeting with Dbeibah, Sisi rejected all forms of "foreign interference" in Libya, the statement added, in an implicit rebuke of Turkey's military backing of Tripoli-based Government of National Accord.

According to the UN, some 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters were still in Libya last year.

The Kremlin-linked firm Wagner Group has also been accused of supporting Haftar by sending guns-for-hire to destabilise the country.

Haftar's forces were routed from the country's west last year, and the two camps signed a ceasefire deal in Geneva in October.

 

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