Egypt’s Sissi meets Libyan strongman Haftar in Cairo
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Egypt’s Sissi meets Libyan strongman Haftar in Cairo

Meeting comes amid military offensive by Libyan commander to take capital Tripoli; UN health agency says fighting has killed 121 people in 10 days

Libya Chief of Staff, Marshall Khalifa Haftar, third left, leaves after an International Conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France on May 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Libya Chief of Staff, Marshall Khalifa Haftar, third left, leaves after an International Conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France on May 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

CAIRO — Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi met Sunday with Libyan commander Halifa Haftar, whose forces are fighting for control of the capital Tripoli, state media reported.

They “are discussing the latest developments in Libya” at the presidential palace in Cairo, state newspaper Al Ahram said.

A presidential spokesperson did not return AFP’s calls for confirmation.

Sissi has been an ardent supporter of Haftar’s forces, which control swaths of eastern Libya and launched an offensive on April 4 to take the capital.

Fighting near Tripoli has killed 121 people and wounded 561, the World Health Organization said on Sunday.

Haftar has defied international calls to halt his battle against fighters loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord based in Tripoli.

A Libyan fighter loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) fires a machine gun during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar south of the capital Tripoli’s suburb of Ain Zara, on April 10, 2019. (Mahmud TURKIA / AFP)

Earlier this month, Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry cautioned that the conflict could not be solved militarily.

His remarks came at a Cairo press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who also called for a political solution among all sides in Libya.

The Libyan commander has modeled his political style of authoritarian leadership after Sissi, himself an army general turned president.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, the new chairman of the African Union, at the 32nd African Union Summit, in Addis Ababa, February 10, 2019. (Samuel Habtab/AP)

Egypt has provided funding and arms to his Libyan National Army, seeing him as a bulwark against Islamist militants.

Haftar, who was exiled in the United States for two decades, returned to Libya in 2011 when the revolution erupted, commanding forces that eventually toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The oil-rich north African country has been in turmoil ever since with successive weak governments in place and several Islamist militias battling for territorial control.

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