The mandate comes a few days after El-Sisi met with Libyan tribal leaders in Cairo, where they called on the Egyptian Armed Forces ‘to intervene to protect the national security of Libya and Egypt’

Parliament unanimously approved sending Armed Forces troops on combat missions outside the borders to the Western strategic direction to defend Egypt’s national security amid the expansion of the Turkey-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), which has moved fighters to capture the key coastal city of Sirte.

In an official statement following the meeting, parliament said it “unanimously approved to send elements of the Egyptian Armed Forces in combat missions outside the borders of the Egyptian state to defend the Egyptian national security in the western strategic direction against the acts of criminal militias and foreign terrorist elements until the forces’ mission ends.”

The parliament reviewed the outcomes of Sunday’s meeting of the country’s National Defence Council (NDC) headed by president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

The NDC said in a statement following the meeting that Egypt seeks to stabilise the current field situation and not to cross declared lines — referring to the Libyan cities of Sirte and Al-Jafra — with the aim of bringing about peace between all Libyan parties.

The MPs praised and supported the efforts exerted by the military to maintain the national Arab and regional fundamentals, the statement noted, adding “neither has the [Egyptian] people let the army down, nor the army ever let the people down.

“The Egyptian nation, throughout history, has advocated for peace, but it does not accept trespasses nor does it renounce its rights. Egypt is extremely able to defend itself, its interests, its brothers and neighbours from any peril or threat,” the statment added.

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“The Armed Forces and its leadership have the constitutional and legal licence to determine when and where to respond to these dangers and threats,” the statement stressed.

The closed-door session was attended by Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Alaa Fouad and Major General Mamdouh Shaheen, assistant minister of defence.

At the beginning of the meeting, Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said he would hold a closed-door plenary meeting to discuss an important subject and that MPs and the prime minister are the only ones allowed to attend the meeting. “Even parliament’s staff are not allowed to attend this meeting,” said Abdel-Aal, who ordered photographers, guards and staff to leave the meeting hall, and MPs to close their mobile phones. Abdel-Aal also asked MPs to be keen not to divulge the content of the meeting’s discussion.

The mandate comes a few days after El-Sisi met with Libyan tribal leaders in Cairo, where they called on the Egyptian Armed Forces “to intervene to protect the national security of Libya and Egypt.”

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At the meeting, El-Sisi reiterated that Egypt “will not stand idle in the face of the crossing of the [Sirte-Jufra] frontline.

The central city of Sirte and the Jufra military airbase are currently controlled by the eastern-based forces of the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by military commander Khalifa Haftar, which have retreated eastward after a series of gains by the government in Tripoli last month.

President El-Sisi has said he would take military action in Libya after securing the approval of the Egyptian parliament.

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Under Egypt’s constitution, the president, who is the supreme commander of the Armed Forces, shall not declare war or deploy troops outside the country without seeking the opinion of the National Defence Council and the approval of a two-thirds majority of MPs.

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The eastern parliament called on Egypt last week to directly intervene in the country’s conflict to counter what it termed a Turkish “occupation.”

Egypt, the UAE and Russia are backing Haftar in eastern Libya, while Turkey and Qatar support the Tripoli-based GNA.

The GNA, with the support of Turkey, recently extended control across most of the territories held by the LNA in northwest Libya, repelling a 14-month offensive by Haftar’s forces to capture Tripoli, and forcing them to pull back east towards Sirte. It vowed to advance to capture Sirte and the inland Al-Jufra airbase.

Turkey began earlier this year to bring thousands of mercenaries from Syria into Libya to bolster the GNA government.

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The latest tensions come one month after El-Sisi had warned that Cairo has a legitimate right to intervene in the neighbouring country, and stressed that the frontline of Sirte and Al-Jufra is “a red line” for Egyptian national security.

He said any Egyptian intervention in the neighbouring country would aim to preserve the national security of Egypt, Libya and the region, securing Egypt’s western border and restoring stability in Libya.

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