Algeria has been cautious about condemning the recent Egyptian intervention in Libya even though it has taken a principled position against international intervention in the ongoing conflict there. Algeria is, however, likely to be disappointed Egypt has breached existing understandings with Algeria to pursue a political solution to the crisis in Libya and limit foreign intervention.
Commentators in Algeria have described the Egyptian airstrike in Libya as an attempt by the government to improve its image domestically and win public support after recent events have tarnished its image, like the killing of 40 fans of the popular Zamalek football club a week ago.
Bouhnia Goui, professor of Political Science at Kasdi Merbah Ouargla University in Algeria, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that “The airstrike in Libya is an attempt by the Egyptian army to prove its strength and readiness for action because of talk it has been meddling in political life and because of the criticism of President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, and the security apparatus’ inaction, which led to the death of 40 Zamalek fans a week ago.”
He added, “The Egyptian army is trying to rectify and improve its image by appearing as if it is protecting Egyptians inside and outside the country.”
Goui commented on Algeria’s position on the Egyptian airstrike, saying “Algeria is disconcerted by Egyptian military intervention in Libya because it cannot openly criticise it in line with the principled position it has taken against foreign intervention in Libya, calling for an end to the crisis through political means.”
He added “Algeria has never had confidence in Egypt’s position and has known about Egyptian military intervention in Libya in support of Haftar’s forces for a long time.”
Goui said “Algeria does not have the means to put pressure on the Egyptian government to end Egyptian military intervention in Libya similarly to the Mali crisis in March 2012, as it could not prevent France from intervening military in Mali.”
Concerns about regional instability
The Algeria Foreign Ministry released a statement yesterday that condemned the gruesome massacre of Egyptians by the Islamic State group (IS) in Libya. The statement said, “Algeria strongly condemns the atrocious massacre committed by wicked hands of the terrorist group called IS against innocent Egyptians in Libya.” Algeria also reiterated its firm stance against terrorism in all its forms and guises. It called on, “The whole international community to coordinate efforts to respond to this dangerous phenomenon and put an end to this series of brutal crimes.”
Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ramtane Lamamra has called for Libyan sovereignty to be respected. After receiving Qatari Assistant Foreign Minister for International Cooperation Sheikh Mohammad bin Abd al-Rahman bin Jassim al-Thani, he said, “Algeria is calling for Libyan sovereignty to be respected and for Libyan institutions to be strengthened through national reconciliation, it reiterates the calls for dialogue to solve the crisis in Libya and condemns all forms of terrorism.”
While the Algerian government has been cautious to clearly declare is position toward the Egyptian airstrikes in Libya, it has expressed its “commitment to continuing efforts with neighbouring countries and the international players to come to a political solution to the crisis in Libya that ensures the return of safety and stability.”
Goui said the rapid developments following the Islamic State group’s (IS, formerly ISIS) mass murder of Egyptian copts in Libya and the airstrike represent a major shift in neighbouring counties’ handling of the crisis in Libya. He thought it was possible the IS chose to carry out the massacre when it did to officially announce its presence in Libya, to hamper the UN-brokered dialogue between the rival Libyan political groups in the oasis town of Ghadames in northwestern Libya.
The IS’ actions have worried Algerians who have found themselves surrounded by Boko Haram in Niger to the south and the IS in Libya to the east.
Goui added “Algeria is threatened, and the army must coordinate with the Algerian diplomatic service or an incident such as the killing of a French national will happen again because of the increase in terrorist activity. Militant Islamic groups in particular the IS pose a threat to all governments, Algeria included.”
By Yaqin Husamuddin.