Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned Egypt and the United Arab Emirates for their continued support of commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) forces in Libya, a day after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi met with eastern Libyan tribesmen in Cairo.
“Steps taken by Egypt here, especially their siding with the putschist Haftar, show they are in an illegal process,” said Erdogan, who also described the UAE as acting like pirates in Libya.
At the meeting on Thursday, leaders from eastern Libya’s self-styled parliament told Sisi that they authorised Cairo to intervene militarily in their country to counter what they described as the “Turkish invasion and terrorism”.
Ankara has supplied military aid to the internationally recognised Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), while Egypt, the UAE and Russia have backed its LNA enemies in the east.
Sisi said during the meeting that Egypt would act “swiftly and decisively” in Libya.
“The red lines that we have announced are primarily a call for peace and the end of the conflict in Libya,” he said.
“But we will not stand idle in the face of any moves that pose a direct threat to our national strategic security on our western borders, especially in light of the increasing military build-up operations in the vicinity of the city of Sirte.”
Turkey’s intervention in Libya turned the tide of the civil war and forced Haftar’s LNA to abandon its year-long offensive on Tripoli to topple the GNA.
Last month, Sisi said that Egypt’s army might enter Libya if the GNA and its Turkish allies renewed an assault on the central Sirte-Jufra front line, an area seen as the gateway to Libya’s main oil export terminals. Both areas are held by the LNA.
Sisi said Egypt would not intervene in Libya without the approval of its parliament, which is dominated by members supportive of the Egyptian president.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin on Monday said the GNA wanted Haftar’s forces to withdraw from the Sirte and Jufra region as pre-conditions for ceasefire talks.
Still, Egypt warned last month that a GNA attack on Sirte would trigger a military intervention by Cairo, allegedly to protect the country’s western border.
Eastern tribes and other factions allied to Haftar have been involved in the closure of Libya’s oil ports since January.
The LNA says the tribes act on their own, but analysts say their activity in Haftar-controlled territory is coordinated with it.
While Haftar, a former officer from Muammar Gaddafi’s rule, enjoys the support of eastern tribes, he is very unpopular in much of western Libya after his 14-month assault on Tripoli, which displaced some 200,000 people.