June 20, 2020 / 1:51 PM / 22 days ago

Egypt's Sisi orders army to be ready for missions abroad amid tensions over Libya

CAIRO, June 20 (Reuters) - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday ordered his army to be ready to carry out any mission inside or outside the country to protect its national security amid tensions over Turkey’s intervention in neighbouring Libya.

Turkey supports the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which, with Turkish support, has reversed a 14-month assault on the capital by Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA)

The LNA is 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.

“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.”

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.

The United States, Russia and the UAE welcomed the plan. Germany said U.N.-backed talks were key to the peace process.

However, Turkey dismissed the proposal as an attempt to save Haftar following the losses he suffered on the battlefield. (Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad and Omar Fahmy; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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