Al Sissi says militias hold Libya government ‘hostage’

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Aden - Yasmin Abdel Azim - Egyptian President and African Union Chairman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gives a joint press conference with the Ivorian president at the presidential palace in Abidjan, on April 11, during the Egyptian president's visit to Ivory Coast. / AFP / ISSOUF SANOGO Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Libya’s U.N.-supported government is held hostage by ``armed and terrorist militias’’ in the capital, Tripoli, Egypt’s leader said Sunday.

President Abdel Fattah Al Sissi said in televised comments that the Government of National Accord ``is not able to have a free and real will because they have been taken hostage by armed and terrorist militias there.’’

The GNA is backed by Egypt’s regional rivals Turkey and Qatar.

Egypt’s relations with the two countries have been strained since 2013 when Al Sissi, as defense minister, led the military to overthrow divisive President Muhammad Morsi in 2013, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, amid mass protests against his brief rule.

The Tripoli-based government is supported by a Libyan affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood group, which Cairo designated as a terrorist organization in 2013.

The political party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, too.

Al Sissi said his country has been ``negatively affected’’ by the conflict in Libya, which descended into chaos after the 2011 civil war that ousted and killed long-time dictator Moammar Gaddafi.

Last week, the Egyptian president said a comprehensive political solution would be achieved in the coming months that would put an end to a ``terrorist hotbed that pushes militants and weapons to (Libya’s) neighboring countries including Egypt.’’

In the chaos that followed Gaddafi’s death, Libya was divided into two parts, a weak U.N.-supported administration in Tripoli and a rival government in the east aligned with the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar, who has modeled himself after Al Sissi, has for months been fighting an array of militias allied with the Tripoli authorities to wrest control of the capital. He is backed by Egypt, as well as France and Russia, while the Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held talks with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Istanbul on Sunday, just days after the Turkish leader said he was ready to send troops into Libya if requested by Tripoli.

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Erdogan and Al Sarraj. Image Credit: AP

The closed-door meeting, which was not on Erdogan’s official agenda, took place in Istanbul’s Ottoman-era Dolmabahce Palace, the Turkish presidency said without giving details.

During the previous meeting between the two men, in Istanbul on November 27, the two countries agreed a deal on security and military cooperation, as well as maritime jurisdiction.

The deal came despite calls from the Arab League - which includes Libya - to end cooperation with Turkey in protest at its military offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria.

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