The announcement by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that Egypt will intervene militarily in Libya if the GNA captures the city of Sirte or the Jufra air base has drawn responses from across the region. Most importantly, the warning has been dismissed by the GNA and Turkey. If they do not relent on their attacks on the two cities, they will push Egypt into a corner from which its only feasible option is a massive military intervention to prevent its arch enemy of recent years, Turkey, from gaining a major presence along the extensive border with Libya.
As it was reported earlier, the Egyptian president announced on Saturday that “any direct interference from Egypt [in Libya] has now acquired international legitimacy, either with the right to self-defence or at the request of the only legitimate elected authority in Libya, which is the House of Representatives [based in Tobruk].” He further stated that although Egypt did not want to intervene in Libya and generally favoured a political solution, “the situation now is different.”
Speaking at a military base near the Libyan border, before an audience that included some Libyan tribal leaders, Sisi said that
“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 said Egypt is ready to provide arms and training for Libyan tribes to “defend their country.” He told tribal representatives attending his speech that if Egypt were to intervene, its forces would advance with tribal leaders at the vanguard. LINK
There were diverse responses to the Egyptian president’s announcement in Libya itself. The Libya Herald reported of the announcement:
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt warned on Saturday that his army is ready for intervention in Libya if the Turkey-backed forces of the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli cross the ‘‘red line’’ of Sirte and Jufra airbase.
Libyan media quoted a spokesman for the Egyptian presidency said that any direct intervention from Egypt in Libya “has become internationally legitimate, whether within the framework of the United Nations Charter (the right to self-defence), or based on the sole legitimate authority elected by the Libyan people (the House of Representatives).”
Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) is currently holding the battle line at Sirte 256 km east of Misrata and 549 km west of Benghazi…
Sisi said that Egypt did not want to intervene in Libya and favoured a political solution. Sisi called for the withdrawal of all “foreign powers” from Libya, and called on the two warring Libyan parties in Libya to respect the frontline and return to talks.
Sisi, together with House of Representatives head Ageela Saleh and LNA commander Khalifa Hafter, had on 6 June launched a ceasefire initiative in Cairo. Whilst this was met with general approval, Tripoli and Turkey had rejected it.
Tripoli insists it is the internationally recognized Libyan government and so has the legitimacy to rule all Libyan territory. It insists there can only be a ceasefire if Hafter’s forces withdraw from Sirte, Jufra and the eastern oil crescent.
More practically, the current ceasefire line means three-quarters of Libya’s oil production lies within the eastern oil crescent under the control of Hafter’s forces. LINK
The Libya Observer reported Sisi’s comments, and added as a final comment:
Egypt has been intervening in Libya for over six years by providing Haftar with political and military support, let alone carrying out airstrikes in Benghazi, Derna and Tripoli in support of Haftar’s forces.
Meanwhile, many Egyptian opposition figures ridiculed the Egyptian regime for the announcements of the death of soldiers in Sinai at the time of Tripoli offensive, which they say have stopped after the fighting has ended. LINK
Media reports quoted Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as saying on Saturday (20 June) that the LNA has lost the chance to engage in a political solution to the conflict because its commander Khalifa Haftar ignored previous calls for a peaceful solution.
“On the contrary, he increased his aggression,” Cavusoglu said in a televised news conference.
“He’s losing, he’s doomed to lose,” he added. “It’s impossible for him to win. He had an opportunity for a political process. He lost that as well.”
However, other reports suggested that Turkey would consider a ceasefire, but on the condition that the LNA withdraw from Sirte and Jufra.
The call by Egypt earlier this month for a cease-fire in Libya as part of an initiative which also proposed an elected leadership council for the country was generally well received by the United States, Russia and the UAE. However, Turkey dismissed it as an attempt to save Haftar from defeat following his battlefield losses.
Al Jazeera reported that the ceasefire offer has been rejected by the GNA and Turkey, which responded by demanding that the LNA withdraw from Sirte:
Al Jazeera’s Malik Traina, reporting from the Libyan city of Misrata, said el-Sisi’s remarks on Saturday were largely ignored by the GNA and its forces.
“A GNA military commander we spoke to earlier said their forces are adamant and that they will enter Sirte. It’s important to note that these are forces know the territory well,” Traina said.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Sunday told the Saudi-based Al Arabiya TV his country prioritised a political solution to the conflict, adding that the GNA misinterpreted el-Sisi’s comments…
Both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have expressed their support for the Egyptian president’s statements.
“Saudi Arabia stands by and supports Egypt on the right to protect its borders and people,” Saudi Arabia official news agency said in a statement.
Additionally, the UAE foreign ministry said it supports all actions by Egypt to ensure its stability and security. LINK
Al Monitor reported of the developments:
The GNA denounced Sisi’s warning, saying any intervention would be a threat to Libya’s security.
“We strongly reject what was said by al-Sisi and consider it a continuation of the war on the Libyan people, interference in Libyan affairs and a dangerous threat to national security,” said Mohammed Amari Zayed, a member of the GNA’s presidential council.
“There can be no ‘red line’ within our borders. We reject any bid aimed at dividing the Libyan people or their territory… (and) we categorically reject any bid to impose guardianship on Libya,” he added.
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.
Turkey also vowed to continue supporting the GNA’s push for Sirte and demanded the evacuation of Haftar’s forces from the city for a “sustainable ceasefire.”
…Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told AFP in an interview that a ceasefire in Libya would be possible if Haftar’s forces withdrew from Sirte and Al-Jufra.
“It should be a sustainable ceasefire, meaning that the other side, the LNA (Libyan National Army), should not be in a position to launch another attack on the legitimate Libyan government any time it wants,” Kalin told AFP in an interview in Istanbul. LINK
The developments passed largely unnoticed in Israel, not managing to push multiple reports and analysis of the existential threats posed by Iran, or the most recent spat between Bolton and Trump, from the main international news headlines, although the Jerusalem Post included a couple of reports syndicated from other agencies.
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