By Ashraf Abdul Wahab.
Tripoli, 8 December:
Libyan lorry and taxi drivers have agreed to resume services across the border into Egypt after . . .[restrict]a week-long protest, following negotiations brokered by local leaders from Tobruk and Matrouh.
The protest came as part of an ongoing dispute around the troubled border, with Libyans reporting frequent harassment and even violence at the hands of locals once inside Egypt.
For their part, the Egyptian security directorate for the Matrouh area has been attempting to implement more rigorous controls to prevent an influx of illegal goods making it across the border.
On 30 November, clashes broke out between Egyptians from Salloum and the Libyan authorities after residents from the Egyptian side reportedly threw stones onto the Libyan side. To disperse the crowd, shots were fired in the air by Libyan authorities but no injuries were reported.
Egyptians have also been mounting their own blockade, preventing any traffic other than travellers and families from crossing the border into Libya.
“We started the protest in the hope that the Egyptian side would find a solution to the threats and harassment we have been subjected to by some outlaws”, said one Libyan driver.
The Libyans are also demanding an end to taxes imposed on Libyan vehicles, the return of customs officials to their work, and the removal of all persons who are not official employees from the border crossing.
Following the negotiations, which concluded on Thursday, both sides have pledged to resume normal services and to prevent further attacks on drivers crossing between the two countries.
On 7 November, the Libya-Egyptian border was closed when clashes broke out between Libyan forces and Egyptian smugglers. It was reported that the attack took place after the 409 Battalion prevented a number of vehicles loaded with contraband from entering Libya. In retaliation, the smugglers resorted to violence in an attempt to pressure the Libyan side to concede.
In April, clashes turned deadly between protestors and Libyan army troops, over higher fees being imposed on trucks crossing into Libya. Two people were killed and others injured when troops fired on protestors who were trying to block the border crossing.