Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday ordered his army to be ready to carry out any mission inside or outside the country amid tensions over regional rival Turkey’s intervention in neighbouring Libya.
He also warned forces loyal to the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli not to cross the current frontline with Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA).
Turkey’s support for the GNA has reversed a 14-month assault on Tripoli by forces loyal to Haftar, which are backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Sisi on Saturday toured an air base near Egypt’s 1,200 kilometre-long western border with Libya, where state TV showed him watching fighter jets and helicopters taking off and checking hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles.
“Be prepared to carry out any mission, here inside our borders - or if necessary, outside our borders,” he told several air force pilots and special forces personnel at the base.
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 Haftar following his battlefield losses.
On Saturday Sisi said that Egypt did not want to intervene in Libya and generally favoured 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 said before an audience that included some Libyan tribal leaders.
“If the Libyan people moved through you and asked us to intervene, this would 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 the “terrorist militias”, a term it uses for some armed groups loyal to the GNA.
However, he called the two warring parties in Libya to respect the frontline and return to talks.