President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said on Saturday that Egypt was prepared for military intervention in neighbouring Libya because of a direct threat to his country's security.
Mr El Sisi said any military intervention by Egypt would be legitimate under the UN charter as an act of self-defence and would be approved of by the House of Representatives in Tobruk, one of the three elements wrestling for power.
He was addressing members of air force and commando units stationed in Egypt’s western region close to the Libyan border.
Tension is rising in the region over Turkey’s military involvement in Libya on the side of the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, against forces from the eastern region led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army.
Mr El Sisi warned forces loyal to the Tripoli government not to proceed beyond the current front line with the LNA and to observe an immediate ceasefire.
His comments appeared to signal his exasperation over the continuing conflict in Libya, from which militants had staged attacks against Egyptian security forces and minority Christians.
It was the first time that Mr El Sisi spoke of military intervention in Libya as a possible course of action.
His comments suggested that such action could be imminent.
“Those who interpreted our patience for weakness are mistaken,” Mr El Sisi said on Saturday.
But made it clear that Egyptian forces would withdraw from Libya when their objectives were met.
“When the issue is settled, the forces will peacefully pull out because we seek nothing except Libya’s stability and security,” Mr El Sisi said.
Turkey’s support for the GNA has reversed a 14-month assault on Tripoli by forces loyal to Field Marshal Haftar, which are backed by Egypt and Russia, among other powers.
This month, Egypt called for a ceasefire in Libya as part of an initiative that also proposed an elected leadership council.
Mr El Sisi earlier said Egypt did not want to intervene in Libya, favouring a political solution, but “the situation now is different”.
“If some people think that they can cross the Sirte-Jufra frontline, this is a red line for us,” he said.
“If the Libyan people moved through you [tribal leaders in attendance] and asked us to intervene, this would be a signal to the world that Egypt and Libya are one country, one interest."
Mr El Sisi said Egypt could provide tribes with training and arms to fight “terrorist militias” loyal to the GNA.
Earlier on Saturday, the GNA said it would boycott talks on the Libyan conflict, to be held by Arab League’s foreign ministers next week.
Foreign Minister Mohamed Siala told the executive council that the planned meeting would "merely deepen the rift" between Arab governments on the conflict, his ministry said.
Egypt called for talks, to be held by video conference because of concerns about the coronavirus.
Turkey said on Saturday that the eastern forces led by Field Marshal Haftar must withdraw from the strategic city of Sirte for a lasting ceasefire to come to force.