Egypt seeks broader al­liance with US over Libya

The Covington News - - WORLD -

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.

AP Photo/bren­dan Smi­alowski

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.

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