Cairo, 13 February 2017
Both Presidency Council (PC) leader Faiez Serraj and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar arrived in Cairo today for joint talks hosted by the Egyptian government.
They were initially supposed to have taken place today but reports indicate they have been postponed until Tuesday.
Hafter was accompanied by Abdul Basset Al-Badri, the Libyan ambassador in Riyadh and his close political adviser and friend. Serraj is accompanied by Fathi Majbri, the PC member from Cyrenaica. It is alleged that he wanted to bring Ahmed Maetig but that Hafter said he would not meet him under any circumstance.
The reason for the postponement, the Libya Herald has been told, was that neither side would agree to conditions set by the other. Both have been meeting separately with Egyptian intermediaries, including Egypt’s Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Mahmoud Hejazi and at the time of writing, meetings were still ongoing to break the deadlock. According to one report, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi himself will chair tomorrow’s meeting, putting further pressure on Faiez and Hafter both to turn up and to reach an agreement.
A reluctant Hafter has been under intense pressure from the Egyptians to meet Serraj and agree a compromise that would open the doors to a settlement in Libya. He has also been under pressure from other quarters to do so, including the Russians. Up until last month, he resolutely refused to do so.
Serraj has wanted for some time to negotiate directly with the field marshal and has agreed that he should be given a role in the Libyan government. However, his offer at the moment is believed to be the one approved by the House of Representatives’ President Ageela Saleh, that the role of commander-in-chief of the Libyan armed forces should be shared between the head of the presidency council, the head of the HoR and the head of the State Council.
The offer is unlikely to be accepted by Hafter.
Egypt wants a settlement not only because its need for security on its western border but also because a stable Libya can again provide jobs for up two million Egyptians, possibly more. The two million who were in Libya prior to mid-2014 were remitting an estimated third of billion dollars a year to Egypt.
Lieutenant General Hijazi has been coordinating Cairo’s attempts to mediate between Hafter and Serraj, both of whom are expected to spend several days in the country.
The Egyptian authorities have imposed media blackout around today’s negotiations. However, details have been leaking out from the Libyan teams.