Egypt readies army for intervention in Libya, declares Sirte and Jufra a red line
By Sami Zaptia.
London, 21 June 2020:
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt warned on Saturday that his army is ready for intervention in Libya if the Turkey-backed forces of the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli cross the ‘‘red line’’ of Sirte and Jufra airbase.
“Be ready to conduct any mission, here inside our borders – or if necessary, outside our borders,” he told the gathered troops.
His statement came during an inspection of forces at an air base near Libya’s eastern border with Egypt. The inspection was a show of force, featuring large numbers of armaments, including fighter jets.
Libyan media quoted a spokesman for the Egyptian presidency said that any direct intervention from Egypt in Libya “has become internationally legitimate, whether within the framework of the United Nations Charter (the right to self-defence), or based on the sole legitimate authority elected by the Libyan people (the House of Representatives).”
Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) is currently holding the battle line at Sirte 256 km east of Misrata and 549 km west of Benghazi.
Despite strong support from Russia and the UAE and to a lesser extent from Egypt, Hafter’s forces had been pushed back from the outskirts of Tripoli, Witya airbase and Tarhuna by forces aligned to Tripoli -with strong support from Turkey.
Sisi said that Egypt did not want to intervene in Libya and favoured a political solution. Sisi called for the withdrawal of all “foreign powers” from Libya, and called on the two warring Libyan parties in Libya to respect the frontline and return to talks.
It will be recalled that Sisi, together with House of Representatives head Ageela Saleh and LNA commander Khalifa Hafter, had on 6 June launched a ceasefire initiative in Cairo. Whilst this was met with general approval, Tripoli and Turkey had rejected it.
Tripoli insists it is the internationally recognized Libyan government and so has the legitimacy to rule all Libyan territory. It insists there can only be a ceasefire if Hafter’s forces withdraw from Sirte, Jufra and the eastern oil crescent.
More practically, the current ceasefire line means three-quarters of Libya’s oil production lies within the eastern oil crescent under the control of Hafter’s forces.