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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Citing a direct threat to Egypt’s national security, President Abdel Fatah El Sisi served notice on Saturday that his country was prepared for military intervention in neighbouring Libya, where rival administrations have been in conflict for years.
He said any military intervention by Egypt would be legitimate under the charter of the United Nations as an act of self-defence and would be approved of by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives in Libya, one of the three elements wrestling for power.
The Egyptian leader’s comments came in an address to members of air force and commando units stationed in Egypt’s western region close to the Libyan border. Tension is rising in the region over Turkey’s military involvement in Libya on the side of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), against forces from Libya’s eastern region led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army (LNA).
Mr El Sisi also warned forces loyal to the Tripoli government not to proceed beyond the current frontline with the LNA and observe an immediate cease-fire.
The president’s comments appeared to signal his exasperation over the continuing conflict in Libya, from which militants had in the past staged attacks against Egyptian security forces and minority Christians.
It was the first time that the Egyptian leader spoke of military intervention in Libya as a possible course of action. His comments also suggested that such action could be imminent.
“Those who interpreted our patience for weakness are mistaken,” he said on Saturday, but made clear that Egyptian forces would withdraw from Libya once their objectives were met.
“When the issue is settled, the forces will peacefully pull out because we seek nothing except Libya’s stability and security,” he said.
Turkey’s support for the GNA has reversed a 14-month assault on Tripoli by forces loyal to Field Marshal Haftar, which are backed by Egypt and Russia, among other powers.
Earlier this month, Egypt called for a ceasefire in Libya as part of an initiative which also proposed an elected leadership council for the country.
On Saturday, Mr El Sisi said Egypt did not want to militarily intervene in Libya, favouring a political solution, but added that “the situation now is different”.
“If some people think that they can cross the Sirte-Jufra frontline, this is a red line for us,” he warned.
“If the Libyan people moved through you (Libyan tribal leaders in attendance) and asked us to intervene, this will be a signal to the world that Egypt and Libya are one country, one interest,” he added.
He also said Egypt could provide tribes with training and arms to fight “terrorist militias” loyal to the GNA.
Earlier on Saturday, the GNA said it will boycott talks on the Libyan conflict to be held by Arab League’s foreign ministers next week.
Foreign Minister Mohamad Taher Siala told the bloc's executive council that the planned meeting would "merely deepen the rift" between Arab governments on the conflict, his ministry said.
The talks, to be held by video-conference because of concerns about coronavirus, were called for by Egypt.
Turkey, meanwhile, said on Saturday that the eastern forces led by Field Marshal Haftar must withdraw from the strategic city of Sirte for a lasting ceasefire to come to force.
Updated: June 20, 2020 10:32 PM
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