Egypt has a legitimate right to intervene in Libya, Sisi says
By Mahmoud Mourad
KAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Saturday that his country had a legitimate right to intervene in neighboring Libya and ordered his army to be ready to undertake any mission outside the country if necessary.
Sisi's comments came amid high tensions over the intervention of regional rival Turkey in Libya. He also warned armed forces loyal to the internationally recognized Government of the National Agreement (GNA) in Tripoli that they should not cross the current front line with Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) based in the east.
Turkey's support for the GNA has reversed a 14-month attack by Haftar-loyalists on Tripoli, supported by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
"Any direct intervention by the Egyptian state has now gained international legitimacy," Sisi told an audience after inspecting military units at an air base near the Libya border.
He said Egypt had the right to defend itself after receiving "direct threats" from "terrorist militias and mercenaries" backed by foreign countries, in an obvious reference to some armed groups that are loyal to the GNA and supported by Turkey.
The main objectives of any intervention would be to protect the 1,200 km long western border of Egypt, to achieve a ceasefire and to restore stability and peace in Libya.
Before speaking, Sisi spoke to several Air Force pilots and special forces at the base, saying, "Be prepared to carry out any mission here within our borders - or, if necessary, outside our borders."
The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia supported Egypt's desire to protect its security and borders. There was no immediate response from Turkey or the GNA.
Earlier this month, Egypt called for an armistice in Libya as part of an initiative that also proposed an elected leadership council for the country.
While the United States, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates welcomed the plan, Turkey declined to try to save Haftar after his losses on the battlefield.
Sisi said on Saturday that Egypt had always refused to intervene in Libya and wanted a political solution to its conflict, but added that "the situation is different now".
"If some people think they can cross the Sirte Jufra front, it's a red line for us," he said to an audience that included some Libyan tribal leaders.
Sisi asked the two warring parties to respect the front and to return to the talks.
He also said Egypt could provide training and weapons to Libyan tribes to combat the "terrorist militias".
(Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy and Ahmed Tolba and Samar Hassan; editing by Jan Harvey and Daniel Wallis)
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