Growing tension between Cairo and Ankara

Egyptian officials say Cairo is closely monitoring Turkish plans to provide military support to the Libyan government of Fayez Al-Sarraj.

“There are two things we are keeping an eye on: the first is whether Turkey is actually planning to send troops and arms to Al-Sarraj and the second is whether this will be a temporary military presence or signal the beginning of a permanent presence that could include a Turkish military base in Tripoli,” said one informed Egyptian official.

The official spoke hours after President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said on Monday that Egypt would not allow its national security to be compromised by foreign military intervention in Libya, with which it shares a 1000 km border. Cairo has repeatedly complained about cross-border infiltration of arms and militants.

Tension between Cairo and Ankara has escalated since Al-Sarraj, the head of the UN recognised government of Libya, signed maritime, security and military agreements with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan two weeks ago.

Though the texts of the agreements have not been revealed, leaks suggest they contain provisions for Turkey to send troops and arms to Al-Sarraj should he request it and threaten Egypt’s plans to establish a natural gas pipeline connecting it with Cyprus and Greece.

These treaties pose a direct threat to Egypt’s national strategic interests,” said another official. Cairo cannot compromise on having an expanded Turkish military presence in Libya or abandon its gas pipeline plans, the official added.

Egypt has agreed to import natural gas from Israel for liquefaction before it is exported on to Europe through the planned pipeline.

On Monday UN Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame arrived in Cairo for talks with senior Egyptian officials.

An informed source said Salame hopes to achieve two objectives: to dissuade Cairo from any military reaction should Turkey actually send troops to Libya, and build on statements that Aguila Saleh, president of the Libyan House of Representatives, made in Cairo on Sunday when he suggested that the way forward for Libya is to create a government of national unity.

Egyptian officials say that while Cairo is willing to walk the extra mile to help Salame find a diplomatic exit from the situation, Egypt cannot be expected to remain neutral in the face of continued “deliberate provocations” from Ankara.

source: Al Ahram