Egypt’s president secured a parliamentary green light for possible military intervention in Libya, raising the stakes in the OPEC member amid international efforts to reach a political solution to the conflict.
The unanimous backing, announced in a statement by the 596-seat parliament, came after President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi told a group of mainly eastern Libyan tribal heads last week that Egypt was determined to protect its interests and those of its North African neighbor.
El-Sisi has warned the Turkish-backed internationally recognized government in the capital, Tripoli, against trying to take the central city of Sirte, a gateway to Libya’s oil crescent, from eastern commander Khalifa Haftar.
The Egyptian leader has said his description of Sirte as a “red line” was intended as a call for peace, and that a political solution to the more-than yearlong war is the best way forward. El-Sisi stressed the same point to U.S. President Donald Trump in a phone call on Monday. That discussion, and another between Trump and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, signaled continuing international efforts to calm tensions.
Egypt, which backs Haftar, has grown increasingly uneasy over territorial gains made by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord in Tripoli. Military and logistical support from Ankara has allowed Sarraj’s administration to turn the tide of a war in which Haftar appeared to be prevailing.
El-Sisi has repeatedly said Egypt’s security interests intertwine with those of neighboring Libya. He had indicated that any military intervention would have to be requested by Libya’s parliament in the east, a condition that’s already been met.
Egyptian lawmakers said in a statement their decision sought to defend national security against “armed criminal militias and foreign terrorist elements.”
The Libya conflict, which escalated in April 2019 with Haftar’s push to take the capital, has morphed into a proxy war of regional powers. Haftar is also backed by the United Arab Emirates and Russian mercenaries, while Turkey has provided Syrian fighters and other logistical support for Sarraj’s forces.