Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has pledged support for elections in Libya in talks with the North African country’s interim prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.
Sisi “stressed the importance of the upcoming Libyan elections in respecting and activating the free will of the … Libyan people,” a presidency statement said on Thursday.
The talks with Dbeibah in the Egyptian capital, Ciaro, took place days after el-Sisi met the Libyan renegade commander Khalifa Haftar, who leads forces that have de facto control over Libya’s east and parts of the south.
An interim government was established earlier this year to lead conflict-ridden Libya towards December 24 parliamentary and presidential polls.
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”.
Parliament speaker Aguila Saleh, who also met el-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, who 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 longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising.
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, el-Sisi rejected all forms of “foreign interference” in Libya, the statement added.
According to the UN, some 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters were still in Libya last year.
The Russian Wagner Group has also been accused of supporting Haftar by sending guns-for-hire to destabilise the country. Turkey has backed the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord.
Haftar’s forces were routed from the country’s west last year, and the two camps signed a ceasefire deal in Geneva in October.
Raft of deals signed
During Dbeibah’s visit to Cairo, Egypt and Libya’s unity government signed a series of cooperation agreements and several infrastructure contracts.
The 14 memorandums of understanding, cover sectors ranging from industry and hydrocarbons to agriculture, communications, and civil aviation, according to a statement from Egypt’s Cabinet.
Project contracts signed between the Libyan government and prominent Egyptian companies include a ring road around the Libyan capital Tripoli, another road leading south to Jalu from the eastern town of Ajdabiya, and the construction and supply of two gas plants.
No detail was given on the value of the contracts.