By Eva Dadrian.
Cairo, 26 May 2015:
The much-delayed Cairo conference of Libyan tribes got off to a shaky start with both . . .[restrict]Zintanis and the Tuaregs boycotting the meeting. The Zintanis have insisted that gathering should be in Libya.
Nevertheless, at Egypt’s invitation, some 300 tribal delegates from all over Libya listened as Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry opened the “Building Libya Together” conference.
He assured the tribal elders that Egypt would not “retreat from helping and supporting the Libyan people … We believe there is no other way but to restore social peace and cohesion between the people of Libya”.
He said that he had flown back to Cairo only a few hours earlier from Algeria where he had had “vital” talks with his Algerian counterpart Ramtane Lamamra and Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal over the continuing Libya crisis.
According to tribal leader Adel Al-Faidy, head of the conference’s preparatory committee, its main objective was “to promote a dialogue between the various tribes” and work to restore stability in Libya. He thanked Egypt for its role in bringing together “under one roof” the Libyan tribes, but adamantly declared “we reject any form of interference”.
One tribal representative, Masoud Omar, who took the floor to enthusiastic cheers from the audience, addressed Egypt directly asking “the brotherly neighbour” to see that the arms embargo on forces allied with Libya’s internationally recognised government is lifted.
Loud applause and chants of “Long Live Libya” resonated throughout the conference hall when he criticised the United Nations for its refusal to “lift the arms embargo imposed by the Security Council since the 2011 Libyan uprising”. He went on to argue that the United Nations fights terrorism in other countries but “bans weapons for the Libyan army which is battling the same terrorism and the Islamic State group in Libya”. Omar asked also Egypt to support the Libyan army with weapons.
On Monday, the Libyan army chief of staff Major-General Abdul Razzaq Al-Nazhuri had himself been in Cairo to meet his opposite numbers from other Arab League countries. The main item on the agenda was a draft protocol for a Joint Arab Force, the formation of which was agreed at the Arab League summit in March.
Nazhouri had told the meeting that the only way stability and security could be restored in Libya was by killing the terrorists. He said that Islamist militias were threatening regional and international security.
While some tribal representatives today were not happy with Nazhouri’s use of language, one said that they have to stop the macabre “football game played by the armed militias with the heads of their opponents”.
The conference is due to end on Thursday. It is not the first time that Egypt has sought to work with Libyan tribal leaders. Last October Shoukry invited eastern tribal leaders to Cairo to explore their role in ending the conflict. He was also seeking to stop the mass-kidnapping and general harassment of Egyptian truckers travelling through the east of Libya.