Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday met in
Cairo with Khalifa Haftar, the commander of eastern-based Libyan forces, who is
under international pressure to halt an advance on the capital Tripoli.Egypt has close ties with Haftar, whose Libyan National Army
(LNA) controls the east and swept through the mainly desert south earlier this
year before moving to Tripoli ten days ago in a major escalation of conflict.His move is the latest in a cycle of conflict and anarchy
since the 2011 toppling of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.Haftar has projected himself as the scourge of Islamist
militants and of the militias that grew powerful after the uprising.
say he has fueled conflict and risks returning Libya to authoritarian rule.A statement from Sisi's office did not mention Haftar's
offensive directly but "confirmed Egypt's support for efforts to combat
terrorism and extremist groups and militias in order to achieve security and
stability for the Libyan citizen".The presidency released photos showing Haftar, dressed in a
blue suit, sitting with Sisi and his head of intelligence Abbas Kamel.Haftar, a former general in Gaddafi's army who later turned
against him, had long talked of a move on Tripoli, in Libya's west, where an
internationally-recognised government sits.His campaign has disrupted efforts by the United Nations to
bring rival eastern and western administrations to the negotiating table to plan
an election and end the turmoil.Sunday was the day the United Nations had hoped to hold a
national conference in the southwestern town of Ghadames."Our position will not change," UN envoy Ghassan
"You've learned and tasted war.
No matter how obstinate
one becomes, there is no solution except a political one."SURPRISE PUSH FOR TRIPOLIAs well as thwarting the UN plan, the flare-up threatens
to disrupt oil supplies, boost migration to Europe, let Islamist militants
exploit the chaos, and worsen Libyans' suffering.The fighting has killed 121 people, mainly fighters, and
wounded another 561, according to UN tallies.
Some 13,600 people have fled
their homes.Fighting in recent days has been taking place on the
outskirts of Tripoli as LNA forces have been bogged down by groups aligned with
the Government of National Accord (GNA).The front lines were mostly calm on Sunday morning but
military sources said in the afternoon that an eastern Libyan warplane crashed
in southern Tripoli.
No further details were available.The 75-year-old Haftar's push for Tripoli took many by
surprise and has brought calls from round the world for a ceasefire.
forces west, his eastern home base is exposed and it may be hard for Haftar to
retreat without losing standing among friends and foes alike.While some pro-Haftar media had predicted a quick victory,
Tripoli government forces have halted him about 11 km (7 miles) from the centre
near an airport that was largely destroyed in a previous bout of fighting five
years ago.His lightning drive appears to have united diverse factions
in western Libya in the defence of Tripoli.