TRIPOLI – Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli met his counterpart Abdulhamid Dbeibeh in the Libyan capital on Tuesday, in a new sign of warming ties between Tripoli and Cairo.
Madbouly landed at Tripoli’s Mitiga International Airport with 11 members of his Cabinet and trade and industry officials, his office said in a statement.
Dbeibeh told a joint news conference that they inked a dozen deals on electricity, telecommunications, infrastructure, health and education. He called for Egypt to resume direct flights between Libyan cities and the Egyptian capital and to reopen its embassy in Tripoli, which has been closed the past five years because of the chaos there.
“We discussed at this stage the restoration of economic, social and political ties,” Madbouly said.
“We value all the steps that the Libyan state has successfully taken (to implement the political) roadmap and (to achieve) reconciliation between all Libyan sects.”
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and high-level representatives of the European Union and the African Union commission met virtually Tuesday to talk about Libya. They “strongly welcomed the significant progress towards advancing an inclusive and comprehensive political solution,” according to a joint statement.
Oil-rich Libya has been torn by conflict since the toppling and killing of long-time ruler Muammar Gadhafi a decade ago.
The country had been divided between two rival administrations: the UN-recognised Government of National Accord based in Tripoli and its rival in the east, loyal to Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
Fighting only came to a halt last summer and a formal ceasefire in October was followed by the establishment of a new interim unity government led by Dbeibeh ahead of elections planned for December.
Egypt had long been considered one of Haftar’s main supporters, but has appeared to shift its position since late last year.
Madbouli’s trip, at the head of a such a large delegation of ministers, was the first such visit to Tripoli since the installation of Libya’s interim government last month.
Dbeibeh visited Egypt in February on his first official trip abroad after he had been selected as premier at UN-led talks earlier in the month.
At the time, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stressed “his eagerness to support the Libyan people” on the road to stability and offered to share Egypt’s expertise on rolling out developmental projects to rebuild Libya’s shattered economy.
Egypt sees the chaos in neighbouring Libya a threat to its own stability, with militants using the Libyan desert as a safe haven from which to launch deadly attacks on Egyptian security forces and Christians.
Also, tens of thousands of Egyptians have found work in neighbouring Libya over the years, although the number has declined since the 2011 uprising.