Egypt delegation visits Libyan capital, meets Tripoli gov't
CAIRO (AP) - Egyptian diplomats and intelligence officials arrived in Libyan capital Tripoli on Sunday, said Libyan officials, the oldest Egyptian delegation to have visited the western part of the conflict-affected country for years.
The Egyptian delegation was led by Ayman Badea, Deputy Chief of General Intelligence, Egypt's version of the CIA. The delegation met with Fathi Bashagha, the powerful interior minister of the Tripoli-based government, and Emad Trapolsi, the head of the secret service in western Libya.
The Bashagha office said in a statement that they discussed "mutual security challenges and ways to improve security cooperation". They also discussed ways to support a US-brokered ceasefire agreement reached by the warring sides of Libya in October.
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Oil-rich Libya is currently split between the United States-backed government in Tripoli and a rival government based in Benghazi that controls the east and south of the country. The country was plunged into chaos following the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed long-time dictator Moammar Gaddafi. Egypt views the instability in neighboring Libya as a national security threat.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates support the Eastern Armed Forces, led by Military Commander Khalifa Hifter. The government of Tripoli has mainly support from Turkey, whose military support contributed to Hifter's year-long attempt to capture Tripoli collapsing in the spring.
There was no official comment from Egypt on the visit and a foreign ministry spokesman did not respond to comments.
The visit to western Libya took place just over a week after the Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel met in Benghazi with Hifter and the spokeswoman for the Benghazi parliament, Aguila Saleh.
Interior Minister Bashagha, who is based in Tripoli, wants to lead a transitional government that will rule Libya until the elections scheduled for next December. He visited Cairo in November, part of the two countries' efforts to "address the threat of terrorism and organized crime," his office said at the time.
The visit of the Egyptian delegation also took place the day after the meeting of Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, along with the Chief of Staff of the Military, Yasar Guler and other commanders, with officials in Tripoli.
In comments by the official Turkish news agency Anadolu on Sunday, Akar threatened to attack Hifter's forces if attacks against Turkish forces were to break out in Libya. He called Hifter and his supporters the "main problem" in Libya, an obvious reference to the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Akar's comments appeared to be in response to Hifter, who said last week he would attack Turkish forces in Libya if Ankara doesn't stop meddling in the country. He said Turkey could "leave peacefully or be forcibly evicted".
Last week the Turkish parliament extended a law allowing troops to enter Libya by 18 months.
Associated press writer Zeynep Bilginsoy from Istanbul contributed to this.
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