LNA thanks Egypt for supporting stability and resolution to Libya violence

Reply comes day after Egypt warned it could intervene in conflict as act of self-defence

Members of the self-proclaimed eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) special forces gather in the city of Benghazi, on their way to reportedly back up fellow LNA fighters on the frontline west of the city of Sirte, facing forces loyal to the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), on June 18, 2020.  The resurgent GNA has vowed to push on for Sirte, late Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's hometown and the last major settlement before the traditional boundary between western Libya and Haftar's stronghold in the east. / AFP / Abdullah DOMA
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The Libyan National Army’s spokesman has thanked Egypt for trying to start talks and secure stability in the country.

Maj Gen Ahmed Al Mismari on Sunday night said the eastern-based LNA valued Egypt’s leadership in promoting stability and thanked Cairo for its proactive stance.

On Sunday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said he had legitimate cause to order a military intervention in Libya to protect its western borders and push back Turkey-supported militias battling the LNA.

Gen Al Mismari said that the LNA and Egypt shared a clear vision for Libya’s security – disbanding militias that back the Tripoli-based administration.

"The LNA from the beginning fought for clear goals, which is to disband the militias and collect weapons," he said.

"The militias must be disbanded in Tripoli and they must hand over arms to the LNA.

"The battle today is a national Arab battle and Egypt is doing its part to preserve its great history.”

Gen Al Mismari condemned Turkey for sending soldiers, trainers advisers and Syrian mercenaries to bolster the militias, and for providing weapons including drones and armoured personnel carriers.

"The Turkish goal is to control the region and its interference threatens the Arab region and Europe," he said.

On Sunday, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also backed Mr El Sisi’s declaration and efforts to stabilise the situation in Libya.

The militias supporting the Government of National Accord repelled LNA forces around the capital with significant Turkish support after a near year-long stalemate.

The head of Libya's eastern-based House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, welcomed Mr El Sisi’s declaration.

Mr Saleh said the president was "responding to our appeal to the Egyptian Parliament" last January, in which he called for intervention in Libya.

And on Sunday, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said Amman supported Cairo "against any threat to the security and stability" of Egypt.

The foreign ministers of both countries had discussed the Libyan conflict by phone.

Al Azhar Mosque, considered the highest seat of Sunni Muslim teaching, also backed Cairo’s right to self-defence.

It called on Libyan factions to unite and solve their differences without foreign interference.

“Al Azhar is following with more concern the intensification of fighting between Libyan brothers and the external interventions with ambitions that lead to more fragmentation and conflict,” religious authorities said.

They praised "Egypt's constant concern for a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis, and Mr El Sisi's serious call for a ceasefire in all Libyan lands, and the resumption of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations".

But the GNA said: "This is a hostile act, direct interference and amounts to a declaration of war."

The battle of words came on the eve of an online meeting of Arab League foreign ministers on Libya, in which the GNA declined to take part.

The meeting, which had originally been scheduled for Monday, was pushed back to Tuesday.

The GNA said it was open to "all impartial mediation under the aegis of the UN" but rejected "unilateral or extrajudicial initiatives".

In recent weeks it rejected Cairo’s call for a halt to fighting and return to UN talks – a call backed by the Gulf and Russia but rejected by Libya's main backer, Turkey.

Libya has been torn by violence, drawing in tribal militias, extremists and mercenaries since the 2011 toppling and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in a Nato-supported uprising.

Since 2015, a power struggle has pitted the GNA in Triploi against the LNA, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by the eastern-based elected House of Representatives.

Last April, when talks broke down, the LNA launched an operation to capture the capital and end the influence of militias.

But the increased Turkish backing in recent months allowed the government to repel the advance and secure much of western Libya.

The GNA advance is now halted outside the coastal city of Sirte, a strategic access point to Libya's key oilfields, which remains under LNA control.

On Saturday, Mr El Sisi warned that if pro-GNA forces advanced on Sirte, about 450 kilometres east of Tripoli, it could provoke a "direct" intervention by Cairo.

Sirte and Al Jufra to the south represent a "red line", Mr El Sisi said in a TV broadcast on Saturday.