Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has held talks in Cairo with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu which focused on “the struggle against terrorism” and bilateral cooperation.
The meeting came as further air strikes were carried out by Egypt against the Libyan city of Derna. Such strikes have been ongoing since the terrorist attack against Coptic Christians in Egypt last Friday, even though Daesh has claimed responsibility for the atrocity.
Sisi claimed last week that the air raids targeted militants responsible for plotting the attack and that Egypt would not hesitate to carry out additional strikes inside and outside the country. The Egyptian air force began its attacks on Libyan cities hours after masked men boarded vehicles driving dozens of people to a monastery in the southern Egyptian province of Minya and killed 29 Copts.
According to Libyan operational commander Brigadier Abdel Salam Al-Hasi, the air strikes targeted two local groups allied with Al-Qaeda, Reuters reported.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Lavrov earlier, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said that militant training camps in Libya are a direct threat to Egypt’s national security as the militants are able to target Egypt. He explained that Egypt’s ongoing military operations are in full coordination with the Libyan National Army which is led by military strongman General Khalifa Haftar, who has been at the centre of operations against Daesh and Islamist militants in the country for the past two years. Both Egypt and Russia support Haftar’s leadership, which rivals the western-backed Government of National Accord lead by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj.
Ahmad Messmari, a spokesman for the Libyan National Army, said that Haftar’s forces were coordinating with Egypt’s air force and conducted raids targeting ammunition stores and operations camps over the weekend. The attacks also targeted the leadership headquarters as well as training camps and weapon storage facilities.
Militant groups, including Daesh, have gained ground in the chaos in Libya, especially in cities like Derna, a main location for Islamist militancy since the ouster of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Egypt and Russia agree on the importance of uniting international efforts in the battle against terrorism, and to increase their cooperation in this regard. A statement said that Cairo wants to bolster “economic, commercial and industrial ties” with Moscow.
Lavrov also met Arab League head Ahmed Aboul Gheit, with both men stressing the importance of “working seriously to find political solutions to the crises and armed conflicts in the Arab world.”