The Egyptian president said last weekend that the need for a “unified Arab force” is growing daily as the region faces threats from jihadists such as the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL).
“The need for a unified Arab force is growing and becoming more pressing every day,” said President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in a televised address to the nation on Sunday, various media outlets report.
“The challenges in the region, and facing our countries, are huge challenges, and… we can overcome those challenges once we are together,” he added, according to CNN.
El-Sisi’s comments come after Egypt bombed ISIS targets in Libya following the release of a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by the jihadist group.
In his address, the Egyptian leader said the warplanes struck 13 targets in Libya that had been “carefully surveyed and studied,” without elaborating further.
The U.S. refused to back Egypt’s airstrikes against Islamic terrorists in Libya after the Christians were slaughtered.
“El-Sissi’s call in a radio interview aired last week for a U.N.-backed force to deal with the Islamic State in Libya was stymied by the United States and its European allies, who said a political settlement in Libya, reconciling the North African nation’s two rival governments, was a priority,” notes The Associated Press (AP).
During the televised speech, the Egyptian president noted that Jordan and Saudi Arabia have offered military assistance as Egypt escalates its efforts against ISIS jihadists in neighboring Libya.
He said Egypt is not interested in invading or attacking other countries, but will protect Egypt and the region “if required and in coordination with our Arab brothers.”
“Your armed forces only protect the people of Egypt, and we coordinate with our Arab brothers,” el-Sisi told the Egyptian nation.
In November 2014, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait were considering forming a military pact to combat Islamic militants, with a potential joint Arab force to intervene in and around the Middle East.
“Last week, security and military officials said discussions of the plan were back on track after a hiatus, with Jordan, France, Italy and Algeria now viewed as possible additional partners,” reports AP.
“El-Sissi’s assertion [during the televised speech] that a joint Arab military force was needed was the first public confirmation by an Arab leader that the creation of such a force was a possibility,” adds the article.
As Egypt’s military chief, el-Sisi led the July 2013 overthrow of Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader who was elected president. Morsi was ousted after millions protested his ascension to the presidency.