Egypt’s military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi visits Libya on Monday to boost ties between the two neighbouring countries where popular protests have unseated veteran leaders, officials said.
It will be Tantawi’s first state visit abroad since the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which he heads, took over following the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak in February after an 18-day revolt.
“The visit is aimed at finding new horizons for cooperation and for contributing to the reconstruction of Libya,” a military official said.
Tantawi will be preceded to Tripoli by a high-powered delegation of cabinet ministers and businessmen, and talks with Libya’s National Transitional Council leaders will focus on infrastructure and reconstruction projects.
“A number of agreements and protocols on cooperation are expected to be signed, including one concerning Egyptian workers entering Libya and their rights,” the state-run MENA news agency reported.
The official Al-Ahram newspaper said “Tantawi will visit Tripoli the day after tomorrow to open a new page with Libya,” after the ouster of strongman Moamer Kadhafi who was killed during his capture by rebels in October.
Tantawi will hold talks with NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil and Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib that will also cover Libyan investments in Egypt.
Last week, Abdel Jalil said Libya will review all its investments abroad, with some overseas projects expected to be stopped.
“There are some investments that could be developed and others that it would be better to terminate for the good of the Libyan people,” he said.
Until its overthrow last year, the Kadhafi regime invested vast sums in Africa, the Arab world and beyond, from a sovereign wealth fund set up in 2006.
The visit “underscores the importance of ties between the two countries,” NTC deputy chief Abdel Hafiz Ghoga told Al-Ahram, adding that he expected Libya’s investments in Egypt to grow.
According to the paper, the ministers of electricity, tourism, planning and labour were to travel to Libya, which is home to a huge community of Egyptian expatriates.
Last year Tripoli asked Cairo for help to bolster its health sector, develop the educational sector and to print textbooks in Egypt, as well as legal advice to draw up a post-Kadhafi constitution and to help demine the country.
NTC fighters said in July that demining efforts outside key oil and industrial areas were being hampered, and that Kadhafi forces had sown tens of thousands of mines around key installations.
Central to the talks will be the situation of Egyptians in Libya — where tens of thousands work — including many who were jailed during the uprising that toppled Kadhafi.
Oil-rich Libya relied on tens of thousands of foreign workers, including white collar professionals, under Kadhafi’s regime.