Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi Saturday ordered his army to be ready to carry out any mission inside or outside the country to protect its national security as tensions rise over Turkey's backing of the U.N.-recognized Libyan government.
Turkey supports the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which, with Turkish support, has reversed a 14-month assault on the capital by putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA).
The LNA is backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
El-Sissi on Saturday toured an air base near Egypt's 1,200 kilometer-long western border with Libya, where state TV showed him watching fighter jets and helicopters taking off.
"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.
He said the Egyptian army was "one of the strongest in the region."
"It is a rational army; an army that protects and does not threaten ... this is our strategy, our beliefs and our principles that we will never change," el-Sissi added.
El-Sissi said Sirte was a "red line" for Egypt, citing the need to protect its porous border as grounds for "direct intervention" in Libya.
"If the Libyan people asked us to intervene, it is a signal to the world that Egypt and Libya share ... common interests, security and stability,"
The key city of Sirte, which lies some 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of the capital, is under the control of Haftar's forces, who last year launched a recently aborted attempt to seize control of western Libya.
The GNA has vowed to take Sirte, as it is the last major settlement before the traditional boundary between western Libya and Haftar's stronghold in the east.
"Any direct intervention by Egypt now has international legitimacy, whether under the U.N. charter on self-defense or at the discretion of the only legitimate elected authority in Libya: the Libyan parliament," el-Sissi said.
The head of the Libyan parliament is based in the east of the country and like Haftar, is supported by Egypt.
"Some think they can trespass on the Sirte or Al-Jura frontline. This for us is a red line," el-Sissi added.
Later, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) supported the Egyptian strongman's statements.
"The kingdom stands by Egypt on its right to defend its borders people from extremism, terrorist militias and their supporters in the region," said a foreign ministry statement carried by state-run Saudi Press Agency.
Similarly, the UAE's foreign ministry said it would be "siding with Egypt on all the measures it takes to protect security and stability from the repercussions of the concerning developments in Libya," according to the country's official WAM news agency.
Earlier this month, Egypt called for a cease-fire in Libya as part of an initiative that also proposed an elected leadership council for the country.
That proposal also called for the withdrawal of foreign mercenaries and the disbanding of Libyan militias.
However, the GNA and Turkey dismissed the proposal as an attempt to save Haftar following the losses he has suffered on the battlefield.
On Friday, the Arab League announced plans to hold an urgent virtual meeting of foreign ministers to discuss Libya this week, as per Egypt's request.
But the GNA said it would boycott the meeting as it would "merely deepen the rift" between Arab governments on the conflict.
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