Libya’s UN-recognised government has accused Egypt of “diplomatic adolescence” after Cairo dismissed the beleaguered Tripoli-based authority as unfit to deal with the Egyptian state.
The comments came after President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said on the weekend that the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) was “not able to have a free and real will” because it was being “held hostage by terrorist militias”.
In Sunday’s televised interview, Sisi appeared to echo comments made by Khalifa Haftar, a military commander who is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, among others, that the Libyan capital was under the control of armed groups.
Sisi also said that the Libyan conflict posed a threat to Egypt’s national security, with fighters and weapons crossing over into Egypt via their porous land border.
Libya, a large oil producer, has been plagued by crisis since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The country is currently split between two rival administrations: the GNA, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and the House of Representatives based in the eastern city of Tobruk, which is allied to Haftar.
Sisi added that while Cairo had a right to interfere in Libya, it “did not take this step to maintain the relationship and brotherhood with the Libyan people.”
Libya’s GNA-affiliated Presidential Council denounced the Egyptian president’s remarks, only for Egypt’s foreign ministry to respond with: who are you?
“Who is the Libyan Presidential Council, which issued a statement today regarding Egypt?” Ahmed Hafez, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tweeted.
Libya’s foreign ministry fired back on Twitter, accusing Cairo of issuing statements that have “nothing to do with diplomatic work, and his [Hafez’s] talk about the presidential council is a kind of diplomatic adolescence”.
Haftar, a former CIA asset, launched a military operation on Tripoli in early April after sweeping through much of Libya’s south and capturing most of the country’s oil installations.
Hundreds of civilians have been killed and wounded in his offensive, with more than 120,000 displaced.
Last week, Hafter said “zero hour” was nearing for the GNA, and a “total assault was expected by every free and honest Libyan”.
The military commander has repeatedly bragged about his relationship with Cairo, and in 2016 said he regularly consulted Egyptian authorities and received intelligence from Egypt’s military.