Egypt’s parliament on Monday greenlighted a possible deployment of troops outside its borders, after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke of potential military operations in neighbouring Libya.
Lawmakers unanimously approved “the deployment of members of the Egyptian armed forces on combat missions outside Egypt’s borders to defend Egyptian national security… against criminal armed militias and foreign terrorist elements,” it said in a statement.
Monday’s vote, in a legislature packed with Sisi supporters, took place in a closed session where deputies discussed “threats faced by the state” from the west, where Egypt shares a porous desert border with war-torn Libya.
Sisi has warned that advances by forces backing the western Libyan-based Government of National Accord on the city of Sirte could prompt an Egyptian military intervention.
The GNA said the warnings were a “declaration of war”.
Egypt, along with the United Arab Emirates and Russia, supports Libya’s eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar, while the GNA is backed by Egypt’s regional rival Turkey.
On Thursday, Sisi told tribesmen from Libya’s east that his country “will not stand idle” over threats to the national security of Egypt or Libya.
Last week, the eastern-based Libyan parliament, aligned with Haftar, gave in-principle support to a possible Egyptian military intervention.
The Egyptian threats come after the GNA last month repelled a year-long offensive by Haftar’s forces who had attempted to seize Tripoli, in the country’s northwest.
Back in control of the Tripoli region, pro-GNA forces have pushed eastwards towards Sirte, a gateway to areas hosting infrastructure vital for Libya’s oil sector.
Sirte lies some 800 kilometres (500 miles) from the Egyptian border, with Libya’s most important crude export terminals in between.
Cairo sees the city as a “red line” and has called for talks between Libya’s rival factions.
Ankara and the GNA have called on Haftar to withdraw from the city, hometown of toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi, and negotiate a ceasefire.
In June, Sisi — standing alongside Haftar — proposed a peace initiative calling for a ceasefire, withdrawal of mercenaries and disbanding militias in the neighbouring country.
The GNA and Ankara dismissed the plan.
On Monday, Sisi spoke with US president Donald trump and the two leaders agreed to “maintain a the ceasefire in Libya and avoid escalation as a prelude to start talks and political solution,” according to a statement by the Egyptian presidency.
Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 uprising that ousted and later killed Kadhafi.