Sisi tells Libyan tribesmen Egypt ‘will not stand idle’ in face of threats

The Egyptian leader said Cairo’s main goal in Libya was to activate ‘the free will of the Libyan people.’
Thursday 16/07/2020
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C) meets with Libyan tribal leaders during a conference in Cairo. (AFP)

CAIRO – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met Thursday with Libyan tribesmen in a show of solidarity with the eastern-based parliament.

During the meeting, the Egyptian president vowed that Cairo will not stand idle in the face of any moves that pose a direct threat to Egyptian and Libyan national security, according to a statement by the Egyptian presidency.

The statement also said tribal leaders meeting Sisi in Cairo had “authorised” the president and Egypt’s army to intervene in their country “to protect Libyan sovereignty.”

The meeting, which reflects the growing regional stakes in Libya, came after the eastern-based parliament allied to Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar called for Egypt to help counter Turkish support for Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA),  led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

 Since 2014, Libya has been divided between areas held by the Tripoli-based GNA, backed by Turkey, and a rival eastern administration backed by the UAE, Russia and Egypt.

Turkey has helped the Tripoli administration force Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) to abandon an offensive on Tripoli.

In violation of an arms embargo, Turkey has reportedly sent thousands of terrorists, extremists and mercenaries from Syria to Libya to support the militias it backs.

This has also posed an imminent threat to Egypt’s security, which has long suffered from terrorist infiltration through its vast border areas.  

Any major escalation could risk igniting a direct conflict in Libya among the foreign powers.

In response to Turkey’s actions, Sisi warned last month that the Egyptian army might enter Libya if the Tripoli government and its Turkish allies renewed an assault on Sirte, a central coastal city seen as the gateway to Libya’s main oil export terminals.

Libyan tribal leaders flew on Wednesday to Cairo from the eastern city of Benghazi, the main LNA base, for a meeting with Sisi entitled “Egypt and Libya, one people, one fate.”

Haftar enjoys the backing of tribes mainly from the east but also former LNA strongholds like Tarhouna in western Libya.

On the flight, some tribesmen were chanting “Sisi” and “Haftar,” a video posted online showed.

Sisi said at the meeting Egypt’s main goal in Libya was to “activate the free will of the Libyan people,” a presidency statement said.

It also published pictures showing Sisi sitting next to tribal leaders.

In June, Sisi said Egypt could act militarily in Egypt if Libya’s Tobruk-based parliament made an official request, or simply based on the UN charter’s protection of the right of self-defence.

 Sirte, held by the LNA, is the last major western city before the historic dividing line with the east — two regions that were united with the south at Libya’s independence in 1951.