Egyptian President al-Sisi says militias hold Libyan government 'hostage'

In a photo taken on Sept 24, 2019, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. PHOTO: AP

CAIRO (AP) - Libya's UN-supported government is held hostage by "armed and terrorist militias" in the capital, Tripoli, Egypt's leader said on Sunday (Dec 15).

President President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi 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.

Mr al-Sisi 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) neighbouring countries including Egypt."

In the chaos that followed Mr Gaddafi's death, Libya was divided into two parts, a weak United Nations-supported administration in Tripoli and a rival government in the east aligned with the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by General Khalifa Hifter.

Mr Hifter has for months been fighting an array of militias allied with the Tripoli authorities to wrest control of the capital.

He is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, while the Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.

The Libyan commander on Thursday declared a "final" and decisive battle for Tripoli, unleashing heavy clashes on the southern reaches of the city in the past two days against the Tripoli-based militias.

Mr al-Sisi's comments came amid heightened tensions with Turkey after a controversial maritime border agreement it signed last month with Libya's UN-based government.

Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, which lie between the two geographically, have denounced the deal as being contrary to international law, and Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador last week over the issue.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.