Photo: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
Egypt’s president has announced a unilateral initiative to end the civil war in neighbouring Libya.
The plan has been accepted by Khalifa Haftar, commander of Libya’s eastern forces that have suffered heavy losses in recent weeks.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi told a news conference in Cairo that his initiative includes a cease-fire starting on Monday and is meant to pave the way for elections in the oil-rich country.
He warned against continuing to look for a military solution to the country’s crisis.
“There can be no stability in Libya unless peaceful means to the crisis are found that include the unity and integrity of the national institutions,” Mr el-Sisi said.
“The initiative could be a new start in Libya.”
There was no immediate comment from Field Marshal Haftar’s rival, the UN-supported Libyan government based in the capital, Tripoli.
But a spokesman for the military forces allied with the government said they would continue fighting to capture the city of Sirte, east of Tripoli, which Field Marshal Haftar’s forces took in January.
Spokesman Mohamed Gnono said Tripoli-allied forces took control of the town of al-Washka, east of the important port city of Misrata.
“We did not start this war, but it is we who will determine when and where it will end,” he said.
The conference in Cairo was attended by Field Marshal Haftar and ally Aguila Saleh, speaker of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives.
Several foreign diplomats, including US, Russian, French and Italian envoys, attended.
There were no representatives of the Tripoli-based administration or its main backers, Turkey and Qatar, at the conference.
Egypt’s initiative comes on the heels of Mr Haftar’s major losses in western Libya and failure to carry on with a major offensive to seize control of Tripoli.
The future of the conflict in Libya appears to be open to one of two scenarios: de-escalation or a full-blown proxy war with major regional and international powers involved in outright conflict.
It is yet to be seen whether the Tripoli-based government will continue to press eastward to seize control of the vital oil installations, terminals and fields that tribes allied with Field Marshal Haftar shut down earlier this year.
The shut-down paralysed the country’s major source of income.
Mr el-Sisi’s plan also comes amid the backdrop of US warnings against Russia’s “fanning the flames” of the conflict, saying that it could deploy its own forces in Tunisia to deter the Russians from destabilising North Africa.
It also remains to be seen what will happen if the Tripoli government turns down Egypt’s olive branch.
Mr el-Sisi, who has backed Field Marshal Haftar in the war, said the initiative included the formation of a presidential council in which Libya’s three regions would be represented.
That council would rule the country during an 18-month transition period followed by elections.
The plan also includes the unification of all Libyan financial and oil institutions and the disbanding of militias, so that the so-called Libyan National Army and other security agencies can “carry out their responsibilities”, el-Sisi said, without elaborating.
The Egyptian leader called for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters in Libya. Thousands of mercenaries, mostly from war-torn Syria, have been fighting on both sides of the war.
Field Marshal Haftar said Turkish intervention would increase regional and international polarisation over Libya and “prolong the conflict”.
He urged efforts to force Turkey to withdraw its forces and the mercenaries it has sent.
“Turkey is sponsoring terrorism in front of the world and is transferring terrorists from one place to another within the Middle East and North Africa,” Field Marshal Haftar said.
“This will further complicate the solution of the Libyan crisis.”
The United Arab Emirates, another main backer of Field Marshal Haftar, welcomed the initiative, saying the political solution was “the only acceptable option to reach the desired stability and prosperity” in Libya, according to state-run WAM news agency.
The US, Saudi Arabia and Jordan also welcomed the Egyptian plan.
“We call on all sides to participate in good faith to halt the fighting and return to the UN-led political negotiations,” the US Embassy in Libya tweeted.
Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a civil war toppled long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed.