Egypt is among 23 countries that met Tuesday in Rome to coordinate efforts against the “Islamic State” (IS) militant group in Syria and Iraq, and to stop its territorial advances across Libya.
The meeting is to take place concurrently with the Syrian peace negotiations in Geneva which aim to achieve a political agreement to stop the five-year conflict.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry departed from Cairo to Rome Monday for the meeting.
Among the principal areas of focus, the representatives will discuss how to maintain security in the recently liberated Iraqi city of Tikrit as well as how to curtail the group’s funding sources and to halt the recruitment of new militants.
Shoukry discussed the situation in Libya with US Secretary of John Kerry in Rome Monday, said an Egyptian ministry spokesperson.
IS has made significant gains in Libya, controlling three Libyan cities: Derna, Sirte, and Subratha. Recent clashes between the Libyan Army of the Tobruk government and the militant group have taken place against the backdrop of Libyan oil facilities in Al-Sedra and Ras Lanuf, a crucial revenue source for the political factions vying for control of the country. In January, IS seized the city of Beni Jawad, near Al Sedra and Ras Lanuf.
Last week, the Libyan parliament in Tobruk rejected the formation of a national unity government as part of a UN-backed plan to resolve the political crisis in Libya, following a vote on Monday.
Since 2014, Libya has witnessed a conflict between two parliaments and two governments. Each party is supported by several militias on the ground.
Senior United States officials said last month that the US and its allies are increasing reconnaissance flights and are collecting intelligence in Libya in preparation for possible airstrikes and commando raids against IS positions.
“It’s fair to say that we’re looking to take decisive military action against Islamic State, in conjunction with the political process”, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said Friday to US media. “The president has made it clear that we have the authority to use military force.”
Libya has witnessed a major lapse in security since the ouster of former leader Muamar Gaddafi in 2011. General Dunford said the US, France, Italy and the UK are concerned about the growing power of IS in Libya and are planning measures to contain the group before it spreads throughout North Africa.