Egypt seeks broader alliance with US over Libya
CAIRO (AP) — As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sought Egyptian support on Saturday for an international coalition to combat jihadi groups, Egypt pressed for broader international efforts to fight militants in its troubled neighbor, Libya.
The Egyptian position adds another layer to the complexities facing the United States as it seeks support among allies in the Middle East to battle militants who have overtaken a third of Iraq and Syria and threaten to upend the region.
Cairo’s call also risks further aggravating regional rivalries that could undermine U.S. efforts to build a durable coalition. Qatar and Turkey back Islamist-allied militias in Libya, while Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia support their opponents.
Military officials said that in exchange for Egypt’s support for the coalition to combat the so-called Islamic State group, it seeks assurances that sorting out Libya will be at the top of the U.S. agenda. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
In meetings with Kerry, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi used language that for the Egyptians clearly referred to Libya, according to a statement by the presidential spokesman.
“(He) stressed that any international coalition against terrorism must be a comprehensive alliance that is not limited to confront a certain organization or to curb a single terrorist hotbed but must expand to include all the terrorist hotbeds across the Middle East and Africa.”
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shurki also brought up this issue more than once during a joint press conference with Kerry.
“We support all international efforts to fight terrorism... and we will take all measures that are intended to eliminate this phenomena altogether, whether in Libya or any other part of the Arab world or in the African continent in particular,” he said.
Military operations in Libya would be a major shift in Washington’s position — U.S. officials have repeatedly warned against intervention there and said that only a political resolution will end the country’s turmoil.
Egypt, for its part, has already moved in that direction however, launching airstrikes against militias in Tripoli last month along with the U.A.E.
Officially, Cairo has repeatedly denied sending troops outside its borders and says it is not planning any military action in Libya, a country now dominated by Islamist-allied militias and with which Egypt shares long stretches of porous borders.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry boards his plane at Cairo International Airport on September 13, 2014 as he leaves the Egyptian capital. Kerry described Egypt as an “important partner” during a short stop in Cairo to build support against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.