Sisi calls for UN mandate for intervention in Libya, lifting arms embargo

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on the United Nations Security Council to mandate an international coalition to intervene in Libya, following Egyptian airstrikes on Monday in retaliation against the beheading of 21 Coptic Egyptians.

Sisi said there was no other choice, reiterating the coordination with the Libyan authorities and their request for Egyptian intervention in an interview French radio station Europe 1 on Tuesday.

Sisi also called for lifting the UN embargo on arms imposed in Libya, highlighting the need for the Libyan miitary to defend its people.

The embargo had been imposed by the UN Security Council in 2011 to protect civilians amid rising violence in the country.

On Monday, Egypt launched the airstrikes in retaliation against the beheading of 21 Coptic Egyptians who were abducted in Tripoli and Sirte in early January. The airstrikes began immediately after the Islamic State released a graphic video on Sunday night that purportedly showed the beheading of the kidnapped Egyptians.

Sisi said that the situation warrants another attack, but a collective one, to end terrorism.

“We need to do it again, all of us together,” he said.

He explained that Egypt was reluctant to resorting to intervention in Libya out of respect for its sovereignty, but that the beheading was “a gruesome terrorist crime,” adding that, “Egypt cannot stand idly by as its sons get slaughtered.”

Sisi added that according to international law, this constitutes self-defense.

The Egyptian president also said that he has long warned of the looming threats in Libya, Syria and Iraq, and that terrorism not only warrants military confrontation, but also cultural, educational, economic and political confrontation as well.   

In August 2014, the United States ramped up its fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria by forming a 62-member global coalition to contribute to ongoing airstrikes in the region. Egypt declined to take part in the initiative, keeping its military operations focused on militants in North Sinai, especially the Province of Sinai group. Formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdes, this jihadi group pledged allegiance to the IS last November, and has claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks on security personnel in the embattled peninsula as well as in Cairo.

Sisi had previously stated that the global coalition should not target just the IS, but other terrorist groups as well.

Lebanese author Wissam Matta explained that what is happening between Libya and Egypt is an extension of the ongoing struggle between the West and IS.

He explained that IS is expanding to North Africa in an attempt to alleviate the pressure its fighters are facing in Iraq and Syria, adding that it moved to Sinai and then Libya after a series of setbacks in Iraq and Syria.

Matta explained that IS is also dragging the opposing side, whether Arab or western, into a war of attrition, in response to the war of attrition it was dragged into in northern Syria.

IS also realizes the strategic important of Libya, Matta explains, located only hundreds of kilometers away from European coasts, along with the security risks that comes with this move.

He refers to the beheading of the Egyptians on a coast, and that the message was said in English, and the fact that they pointed out that they were south of Rome.

“Based on that, we can say that the effect of what happened is not limited to Egypt, but comes within a wider context of open war between the world and the organization,” he told Mada Masr, pointing out that the beheading coincided with the Italian Defense Ministry’s announcement that the country is prepare to lead a coalition of western and neighboring countries to intervene in Libya, as well as the French deal to export Rafale fighter jets to Egypt – all with the aim of pushing Egypt to directly engage with the war on terrorism. 

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