Libya's UN-backed government says Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi's threat of military intervention is "unacceptable" and "amounts to a declaration of war."
Libya's UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) has denounced Egypt's warning of military intervention in Libya, labelling it a "declaration of war".
"This is a hostile act, direct interference, and amounts to a declaration of war," the GNA said in a statement on Sunday.
For the Libyan state, "interference in its internal affairs, attacks on its sovereignty, whether by declarations... like those of the Egyptian president or by support for putschists, militias, and mercenaries, is unacceptable," the GNA said.
The GNA called on the international community to "assume its responsibilities with regard to this escalation".
It said it was open to "all impartial mediation... under the aegis of the UN" but rejected "unilateral or extrajudicial initiatives".
The war of words comes after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi warned that if Libyan army advanced on the strategic city of Sirte – some 450-km east of Tripoli – it could provoke a "direct" intervention by Cairo.
Egypt 'playing the drums of war'
Angered by Sisi's comments, one Libyan official accused Sisi of "playing the drums of war" and creating another Yemen-like situation.
Egypt has intervened in Libya's internal affairs for four years, Abdurrahman Shater, a member of Libyan High Council of State said late on Saturday.
He said Libya's security and democracy have been in danger since Sisi insisted on bringing in military troops that Libyans did not accept.
"Take your hands off us, do not repeat the tragedy in Yemen," Shater said.
Sisi alluded to the possibility of sending "external military missions if required," and said that "any direct intervention in Libya has already become legitimate internationally," while in Matrouh, near the Libyan border.
Sisi told his army to "be prepared to carry out any mission here within our borders, or if necessary outside our borders."
"Sirte and Jufra are a red line," he said.
Sisi gets support form Saudi Arabia, UAE
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Sunday supported Sisi's statements on Libya.
"Saudi Arabia stands by and supports Egypt on the right to protect its borders and people," Saudi Arabia official news agency said in a statement.
UAE's foreign ministry said it supports all actions by Egypt to ensure its stability and security.
#Statement | The Kingdom calls on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities and respond to the calls and initiative of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to reach a comprehensive solution that confirms the safety and security of Libyan territory— Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦 (@KSAmofaEN) June 21, 2020
Tripoli residents protest Sisi's remarks
Demonstrators gathered in Martyrs’ Square in the centre of Tripoli, carrying Libyan and Turkish flags and photographs of Sisi with crosses laid over them.
Demonstrators shouted slogans against warlord Hafter and Sisi, saying “O Sisi, O Sisi, the prisoner of war [Hafter] is left to you.“, “O Allah, overthrow Hafter and those with him.”
56-year-old Salah Muhammed, congratulated the Libyan army for their recent achievements against the Haftar militia, adding that many Egyptians in Tripoli live under the same roof as the Libyans and that Libyans bear no hatred towards Egyptians.
Strife since 2011
Libya has been in turmoil since 2011 when a Western-backed civil war toppled long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed.
The country has since split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.
The eastern-based illegal militia of Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to try to take Tripoli in April last year. The chaos has steadily worsened as foreign backers have increasingly intervened, despite pledges to the contrary at a high-profile peace summit in Berlin earlier this year.
Haftar’s forces are backed by France, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Russia.
Turkey, on the other hand, backs the UN-recognised Tripoli government whose army pushed back Haftar's illegal militia and its allies from most of northwest Libya towards the central coastal city of Sirte in recent battles.