The head of the eastern Libyan parliament Aguila Saleh said on Wednesday that the Libyan people will request the military intervention of Egypt in Libya if armed militias infiltrate the strategic city of Sirte.
Speaking to Egypt's state news agency MENA, Saleh said the Egyptian intervention "would be legitimate under the Libyan people's mandate” to protect the Libyan and Egyptian security.
"We will request the intervention of the Egyptian armed forces to support the Libyan army in case of the infiltration of Sirte,” Saleh said.
Earlier this week, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said his country has a legitimate right to intervene in Libya and ordered his army to be prepared to carry out any mission outside the country if necessary.
He said any intervention by Egypt would mainly be aimed at protecting Egypt’s western border, achieving a ceasefire, and restoring stability and peace in Libya, stressing that crossing the Sirte-Jufra frontline is a “red line” for Egypt.
Forces allied to eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar, who Egypt supports, have recently pulled back east towards Sirte and Al-Jufra airbase in central Libya after forces loyal to the rival government in the west extended control across most of northwest Libya and advanced further south.
“The Libyan people formally ask Egypt to intervene with military forces if needed to maintain the Libyan national security and the Egyptian national security,” said Saleh, who is allied to Haftar. “That would be legitimate self-defense if the terrorist and armed militias crossed the red line that President El-Sisi spoke about and attempted to go beyond the cities of Sirte or Al-Jufra."
By doing so, Saleh said, Egypt will protect Libya's security while ”securing its own western borders and preventing militias from advancing into areas that pose a threat to Egypt's security.”
Saleh said he asked for the support of the Egyptian armed forces during his speech at the Egyptian parliament in January, a request he said had been accepted by Egyptian MPs.
The oil-rich country is divided between two rival administrations in the east and west.
Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia support Haftar, while the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) is supported by Qatar and Turkey.
Earlier this month, Egyptian President Abedl Fattah El-Sisi announced an initiative that proposes a ceasefire and called for disbanding Libyan militias and the withdrawal of foreign mercenaries.
The plan was accepted by Haftar, but dismissed by the rival western government in Tripoli. The initiative had been welcomed by Russia, the United States and a number of Arab countries.
Saleh said the Libyan National Army (LNA) moved towards Tripoli last year with the aim of “liberating the capital from the militias' grip".
Militias and terrorist groups, Saleh said, are seeking to steal the country’s oil wealth, saying they should be eliminated and security institutions should take over.
The LNA decided to withdraw from the capital Tripoli last month to avoid using more force after Turkey sent more than 15,000 mercenaries, adding that the move came in response to international calls for a ceasefire amid international initiatives, including Egypt’s proposal.
Saleh said a ceasefire and peace talks have always been an Egyptian demand which is rejected by "colonial powers and some Libyans who seek to achieve their own interests".
Saleh believes that a political dialogue should not exclude or marginalise any party, and that all regions should be represented in Libya's presidency and state authorities.
"We will not disagree on wealth or power. We have rules for governance and we are partners in everything,” Saleh asserted, adding that the country’s petroleum wealth is “for all Libyans”.
Saleh stressed that the eastern Libyan parliament is the only elected authority that represents the Libyan people.
He said there has been consensus among all sects of the Libyan society on supporting El-Sisi in implementing Cairo's peace initiative to achieve a ceasefire, resume an inter-Libyan dialogue and prepare for a legitimate military intervention to protect Libya from attempts by foreign powers to seize its resources.
Saleh said that President El-Sisi was “not biased” and that Egypt’s interference would not be in support for one party over another. “Rather, President El-Sisi always pushes all parties towards dialogue and a peaceful solution, and always calls for reconciliation,” he said.
Saleh had in the past provided support to the Libyan people, sent food and medicines, witnessed the establishment of the Libyan army in 1940, and backed the North African country in its endeavours to regain its independence .
The parliament speaker said an arms embargo aimed at curbing the fighting in Libya was only implemented on the LNA as armed militias have continued to receive weapons, adding that the international community has failed to stop the arrival of mercenaries and weapons into the Libyan territories.