El Sisi calls for UN to fight ISIL in Libya
CAIRO // Egypt called for a UN-backed international intervention in Libya on Tuesday, a day after striking ISIL targets in the country.
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said “there is no choice” but to create a global coalition to confront the extremists in Libya after they executed 21 Egyptian Christians working there.
Responding to the request, the United Nations Security Council announced it would meet on Wednesday to discuss Libya.
Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry was in New York and will hold bilateral meetings with Security Council members and Arab representatives.
The meeting was scheduled for 3:00pm local time on Wednesday and was to be followed by closed-door consultations.
Mr Shoukry will lay out the situation in public before the council, Britain’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations Peter Wilson told reporters.
While supporting the Egyptian request, Arab diplomats at the United Nations said they thought it would also require a formal request by the Libyan government.
The diplomatic push comes after Egyptian F-16 jets bombed militant bases in Derna and on the February 17 anniversary of the beginning of the 2011 Nato-backed Libyan revolt that ousted Muammar Qaddafi.
The air raids were ordered hours after ISIL militants in Libya released a gruesome video showing the beheadings 21 Egyptian Christians who had travelled there seeking work.
Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians remain in Libya and their government was encouraging them to leave the country, foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said.
Libya has been gripped by turmoil since the revolt and Egyptian officials have long said that the Nato intervention to help the anti-Qaddafi rebels left Egypt to contend with chaos on its western border.
“The mission was not finished,” Mr Abdelatty said.
France, which on Monday agreed to sell Egypt advanced Rafale fighter jets, has called with Cairo on the UN to adopt “measures” to confront the extremists in Libya.
Italy, the former colonial power in Libya and lying across the Mediterranean, ruled out an intervention without UN backing and suggested a political solution remained the best option.
“What is happening is very complicated. We are following events closely and with concern but there is no need to jump from total indifference to hysteria and an unreasonable reaction,” prime minister Matteo Renzi said.
The European Union said it will meet with the Egyptian and US governments this week to discuss joint action on Libya, but that it saw no role in any military intervention for now.
Chaos in Libya has seen rival governments and powerful militias battling for control of key cities and the country’s oil riches, providing fertile ground for ISIL.
Several Libyan extremist groups have pledged allegiance to ISIL, which last year seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq.
Delegates from Libya’s rival parliaments held UN-mediated indirect talks earlier this month that were described by the UN as “positive”.
But Egypt says it would be naive to hope for a political settlement in the near term, insisting that militants must be confronted with force.
“There are terrorist organisations in Libya that are not abiding by their commitments, they are not serious about dialogue,” said Abdelatty, the foreign ministry spokesman.
Monday’s air strikes were the first time Egypt announced military action against ISIL targets in Libya.
Experts say Mr El Sisi wants to be seen as a key ally of the West against religious extremism, deflecting international criticism of his crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood of former president Mohammed Morsi, who Mr El Sisi ousted in 2013.
As well as Libya to the west, Egypt is dealing with an insurgency to the east in its Sinai Peninsula, where militants have also joined ISIL and scores of troops have been killed.
Mr Abdelatty said it was time for the international effort against ISIL to also focus on its presence elsewhere.
“Just as there is movement against Daesh in Syria and Iraq, we want the world to turn its attention to Libya,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for group.
* Agence France-Presse
Updated: February 17, 2015 04:00 AM