The United States Department of State stressed late Tuesday that it respects countries’ desire to defend themselves, commenting on airstrikes carried out by the Egyptian air force targeting militants in Libya.
The Egyptian military said in a statement the Monday strikes targeted training sites and weapons and ammunition storage sites belonging to Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, located inside Libya.
The strikes came in reaction to a video released late Sunday showing a militant group believed to belong to the Libyan division of the Islamic State fighters beheading 20 abducted Coptic Egyptians.
“We certainly respect the right of countries to make their own decisions about their own self-defence and defence of their own country,” said U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki in a press briefing on Tuesday.
The internationally-recongnised Libyan government called on Egypt to “continue its military airstrikes against extremist and terrorist hotbeds in Libya after coordinating with the Libyan leadership” in a statement issued late Tuesday.
“We value the role of neighbouring Egypt in coordinating with the Libyan leadership in joint operations with the Libyan air force,” the statement read.
The United Nations Security Council is convening on Wednesday over the situation in Libya. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Badr Abdelatty said in a statement the convention was called for by Libya and Egypt.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri left Egypt on Monday for Washington DC on a five day visit to discuss “combating terrorism”.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his French counterpart Francois Hollande had called on Monday for a UN Security Council convention over the security situation in Libya, according to a statement from the French presidency.
Sisi also called for an intervention in Libya by an international coalition, mandated by a UN resolution. The president told France’s Europe 1 radio on Tuesday that such a coalition is the only choice.
Psaki reflected her government’s “concern” about the threat of Islamic State fighters, adding that the U.S. State Department doesn’t have “anything specific” to say about Sisi’s calls for intervention in Libya.
“We continue to believe that in Libya the best path forward is a political process, one that’s being led by the UN,” she said.
The mass beheading of the Coptic Egyptian nationals was severely condemned worldwide.
The governments of France, Italy, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States described the incident as “heinous murder” in a statement released late Tuesday. They stressed that the solution to the conflict in Libya lies in a “UN-led process [establishing] a national unity government”.
“The urgency of the terrorist threat demands swift progress in the political process, based on clear timelines,” the statement read.
Fighting in Libya has intensified since the overthrow of late Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, reaching unprecedented levels over the past year. As a result, several Libyan cities have fallen under control of armed militant groups.
Several Egyptians have been caught up in the militant fighting gripping the neighbouring country.