CAIRO • Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said that his country has a legitimate right to intervene in neighbouring Libya, and ordered his army to be ready to carry out any mission outside the country, if necessary.
Mr Sisi’s comments last Saturday came amid high tensions over regional rival Turkey’s intervention in Libya. He also warned forces loyal to the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli not to cross the current front line with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army.
Turkey’s support for the GNA has reversed a 14-month assault on Tripoli by forces loyal to Mr Haftar, which are backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt. “Any direct intervention from the Egyptian state has now acquired international legitimacy,” Mr Sisi told an audience after inspecting military units at an air base near the border with Libya.
He said Egypt has the right to defend itself after receiving “direct threats” from “terrorist militias and mercenaries” supported by foreign countries, in an apparent reference to some armed groups loyal to the GNA and supported by Turkey.
The main aims of any intervention would include protecting Egypt’s 1,200km western border, helping achieve a ceasefire, and restoring stability and peace in Libya, he said.
Before his speech, Mr Sisi addressed several air force pilots and special forces personnel at the base, telling them: “Be prepared to carry out any mission, here inside our borders – or if necessary, outside our borders.”
The UAE and Saudi Arabia expressed support for Egypt’s desire to protect its security and borders. There was no immediate reaction from Turkey or the GNA.
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.
While the United States, Russia and the UAE welcomed the plan, Turkey dismissed it as an attempt to save Mr Haftar following his battlefield losses.