East Libyan parliament head urges Egypt to intervene in Libya if Sirte attacked

Aguila Saleh, the head of the eastern Libyan parliament, has urged Egypt to intervene militarily if rival Turkish-backed forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA) attack the strategic city of Sirte, Al Jazeera English reported on Wednesday.

"The Libyan people are officially asking for Egypt to intervene with military forces if the necessities of maintaining Libyan national security and Egyptian national security require this," Saleh was cited as saying by Egypt’s official MENA news agency, according to Al Jazeera.

Saleh said an Egyptian intervention in Libya would be "legitimate” if the GNA’s forces “crossed the red line” by attacking Sirte. 

Eastern-based forces under rebel General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) - backed by Russia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, among others -  launched an offensive in April last year to try to capture Tripoli from the GNA. 

Haftar's forces were forced to retreat from much of western Libya in recent weeks after Turkey stepped up its support for the United Nations-recognised GNA led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

Buoyed by their recent battlefield victories, GNA-aligned forces said they would stop their advance after capturing Jufra airbase and Sirte, a key city on the Mediterranean. Control of Sirte will be decisive for the oil industry, as it is the gateway to Libya’s central and eastern oil crescent.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi warned over the weekend that any attack on Sirte or Jufra would amount to crossing a "red line" and he said that Egypt could intervene militarily to protect its western border with the oil-rich country.

In response, the GNA said it considered el-Sisi's comments a "declaration of war". El-Sisi's threat prompted Italy, Germany and the United States to push for a ceasefire, fearing an escalating conflict.

Libya, a major oil producer, has been in political turmoil since 2011, when the dictator President Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed after over 40 years in power.

Since 2014, Libya has been split between rival factions based in the capital, Tripoli, and in the east, in a conflict that has drawn in outside powers and a flood of foreign arms and mercenaries.