Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Various political and business figures from Libya have been holding secret talks in Cairo to discuss efforts to isolate radical militias in control of large parts of the North African country, a leaked document suggests.
According to the leaked document, which Asharq Al-Awsat recently obtained a copy of, the talks centered on ways to neutralize the Libyan Dawn Islamist group, an array of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated militias, and an Al-Qaeda affiliate known as Ansar Al-Shari’a. Both armed groups hold control over large parts of Libya, including the capital Tripoli, and the cities of Benghazi and Derna in the east.
Within Libya, two rival governments are locked in a fierce struggle for power: an internationally recognized parliament based in the eastern city of Tobruk, and a rival Islamist-dominated government headquartered in Tripoli.
The meetings were organized by “moderate” Islamist figures and supporters of the former regime of Muammar Gaddafi, the document said, citing growing public outrage at the Muslim Brotherhood, which stands accused of using “rebels” to further its own interests.
One meeting, held in a villa located in the Taggamu’ El-Khamis, an upscale district in eastern Cairo, concluded by emphasizing the need to work towards “breaking extremists,” as well as attempting to separate the “true rebels” from “leaders of extremist groups.”
According to the document, there is a lack of consensus over the future of the role of Gen. Khalifa Haftar and whether he would carry on with his anti-Islamist operation, dubbed Al-Karama, the Arabic word for dignity.
A renegade former army officer, Haftar has emerged as a powerful figure in Libya after gathering a powerful military force under his banner and launching an anti-Islamist operation in Benghazi earlier this year.
The leaked document also contains details of the response to moves by some of the more moderate sponsors of the Brotherhood towards holding a dialogue with political rivals with the help of neighboring countries and the UN, in a bid to end the chaos tearing Libya apart.
The document quoted one moderate as saying:“The Libyan Dawn force and its Brotherhood leaders have to know that they will not be able to enter into talks with international brokers over a solution in Libya as long as they refuse to recognize the parliament that people chose through the ballot box and in a democratic manner.”
In another section, an influential businessman complained about the “major political losses and the repercussions on the domestic, regional and international level” that the Islamist takeover of Tripoli and its airport had caused.
The rise of the Brotherhood in Libya has seen dozens of political figures, including both former supporters and opponents of Gaddafi, flee to neighboring Egypt. Their ranks include former government officials and ministers with a variety of political and tribal affiliations.
Several similar meetings have been held recently, with some attended by representatives from the US, EU and Russia to discuss the unfolding developments in Libya.
The Brotherhood has used its influence over the Libyan Dawn force to bolster its presence in Tripoli and Benghazi.
The document points to growing concerns among moderate Islamist businessmen from the city of Misrata, an Islamist stronghold, over the repercussions of the Brotherhood’s sway over the city.
“Some senior politicians and businessmen in Misrata are worried about the future, both on the national and international level, particularly after the UN Security Council issued its resolution 2161 in mid-2014 imposing financial sanctions and travel bans on figures and entities that use, fund or call for violence,” the document quoted a businessman as saying.
Another businessman, who imports drilling equipment from Germany, said reaching a settlement with political rivals whether inside or outside Libya was “still premature due to the state of extreme polarization the Brotherhood and its allies have created among the youth of Misrata, Sabratha and some areas in and around Tripoli.”
The meetings also discussed the need to consider the issue of releasing some political and tribal figures, a step participants said was conducive to national consensus.
One member of the delegation of exiled politicians had requested to meet with Egyptian government officials, but Cairo responded by asking for further anti-Brotherhood “measures on the ground,” the document suggests.