Egyptian Parliament votes to allow sending troops to Libya

Chamber votes unanimously to support national security resolution

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El Sisi, right, walks with Khalifa Hifter, the head of the self-styled Libyan National Army, in Cairo, Egypt. AP

Egypt’s Parliament yesterday voted to authorise sending troops abroad in defence of national security as concerns over neighbouring Libya intensify.

A statement from the 596-seat chamber did not mention Libya specifically but left little doubt that was the intended country.

Cairo is concerned about militants from Libya crossing its borders and posing a threat to its security.

Turkey has a history of supporting militants in Libya and has sent troops and mercenaries to back the Government of National Accord in Tripoli.

Parliament said the 510 MPs present voted unanimously in support of the resolution.

“The armed forces and its leadership have a legal and constitutional licence to decide the time and place for their response against these threats,” the statement said.

It referred to “criminal and armed militias and foreign terrorist elements”.

The statement said the authorisation to send troops abroad would be valid until their mission is completed.

The session was held behind closed doors.

Speaker Ali Abdel Aal, a staunch government supporter, asked media representatives to leave the chamber before the late afternoon session began.

MPs were told they could not leave the chamber before the vote, which was necessary under Egypt’s constitution that prohibits sending troops abroad without the house’s approval.

Egypt and Turkey have been at odds for years, with Cairo accusing the Nato member of destabilising the region. They support rival parties in the Libyan conflict.

Minutes before the day’s session, US President Donald Trump spoke to Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah El Sisi by phone.

The Egyptian presidency said Mr Trump asked that no action be taken to escalate the situation in Libya and that efforts must continue to uphold a fragile ceasefire.

“The two leaders affirmed the need for immediate de-escalation in Libya, including through a ceasefire and progress on economic and political negotiations,” the White House said.

It said Mr Trump also told French President Emmanuel Macron that the conflict “has been exacerbated by the presence of foreign forces and arms”, the White House said.

If the Egyptian military moved into Libya, it would be the first time that Cairo sent combat troops abroad since it took part in the 1991 liberation of Kuwait by a US-led coalition.

The previous time was in the 1960s when Egyptian troops fought on the side of republicans in Yemen’s civil war, a conflict that depleted the military and set the stage for its defeat in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Last week the House of Representatives in Libya’s eastern region, which Cairo recognises as the country’s only legitimate power, invited military intervention if Cairo and the chamber agreed such action was needed.

On Sunday, Egypt’s National Security Council convened in a meeting chaired by Mr El Sisi and attended by Defence Minister Mohamed Zaki, top military commanders and others.

The council reviewed the situation in Libya and the dispute with Ethiopia over a massive dam it is ready to fill on the Nile.

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