Libya unity government says Egypt threat ‘declaration of war’

TRIPOLI (AFP) – Libya’s United Nations (UN)-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) last Sunday denounced Egypt’s warning of military intervention in Libya, labelling it a “declaration of war”.

“This is a hostile act, direct interference and amounts to a declaration of war,” the GNA said in a statement.

The war of words came on the eve of a virtual meeting of Arab League foreign ministers on Libya, in which the GNA declined to participate. That meeting, which had originally been scheduled for yesterday, has been pushed back to today.

Last Saturday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned that if pro-GNA forces advanced on the strategic city of Sirte – some 450 kilometres east of Tripoli – it could provoke a “direct” intervention by Cairo.

For the Libyan state, “interference in its internal affairs, attacks on its sovereignty, whether by declarations… like those of the Egyptian president or by support for putschists, militias and mercenaries, is unacceptable,” the GNA said.

A man waves a Libyan national flag as people walk on protest signs during a demonstration in the Martyrs’ Square in the centre of the Libyan capital Tripoli. PHOTO: AFP

The GNA called on the international community to “assume its responsibilities with regard to this escalation”.

It said it was open to “all impartial mediation… under the aegis of the UN” but rejected “unilateral or extrajudicial initiatives”. Oil-rich Libya has been torn by violence, drawing in tribal militias, extremists and mercenaries since the 2011 toppling and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Gadhafi in a Western-backed uprising.

Since 2015, a power struggle has pitted the Tripoli-based GNA against strongman Khalifa Haftar, who claims legitimacy from an eastern-based elected parliament.

Haftar has been trying unsuccessfully to seize the capital since April 2019, with support from neighbouring Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.