By Mark John
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi called for a United Nations resolution mandating an international coalition to intervene in Libya after Egypt’s airforce bombed Islamic State targets there.
“There is no other choice, taking into account the agreement of the Libyan people and government and that they call on us to act,” he told France’s Europe 1 radio in an interview aired on Tuesday. “We have to work together to defeat terrorism.”
Egypt directly intervened for the first time in the conflict in neighbouring Libya on Monday after an Islamic State group in the country released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians.
Sisi said a 2011 NATO operation, which played a critical role in toppling former leader Muammar Gaddafi, was an “unfinished mission”.
The Western alliance imposed a no-fly zone on Libya and used air power to try to prevent Gaddafi’s forces from attacking civilian areas held by rebels. But it then did little to prevent the country from sliding into anarchy and chaos.
“We abandoned the Libyan people as prisoners to extremist militias,” the Egyptian president said.
In Rome, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi also called for action from the United Nations, but did not say whether Italy itself would support any direct military operation in Libya.
“There was renewed Italian commitment for strong diplomatic action within the framework of the U.N. and support for an urgent initiative at the Security Council to promote stability and peace in Libya,” said a statement following a meeting between Renzi and his defence and interior ministers.
Libya is separated from the Italian island of Sicily by only a few hundred kilometres of sea and has been a launching pad in recent years for hundreds of thousands of African and Middle East migrants seeking a better life in Europe.
Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti have both said Rome would be ready to join any military intervention but Renzi has struck a more cautious note, saying on Monday it was important to avoid “hysteria” and that any action had to be under UN authority.
Sisi called on various Libyan militias to disarm, while urging the outside world to send weapons to Libya’s internationally recognised government, which is based in the eastern city of Tobruk after rivals seized power in Tripoli.
The Tobruk government has also asked for the lifting of an arms embargo to help it take back control of the country.