The Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Khalifa Haftar, said on Sunday that it will never leave the coastal city of Sirte to Turkey, “no matter the sacrifice”.
Khaled al-Mahjoub, an LNA official, told Al-Arabiya: “We will not leave Sirte for Turkey, no matter the sacrifices.”
Sirte is a key coastal city in Libya, close to major energy export terminals on the Mediterranean seaboard.
The LNA and the Government of National Accord (GNA) have been fighting for control of Libya, including Sirte. Clashes between both sides over Sirte have intensified since early June.
Turkey, which backs the GNA led by Fayez al-Serraj, has been ramping up its military intervention in Libya. on Saturday, Turkey told AFP that Sirte and Al-Jufra need to be evacuated by Haftar’s forces for a “sustainable ceasefire.”
In November, Turkey signed a military cooperation pact with the GNA. The two parties also signed a maritime demarcation deal, which gives Ankara exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
The maritime deal was rejected as “illegal” by many Mediterranean countries such Greece and Cyprus.
In early in June, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country’s support for the GNA “will increasingly continue.”
Turkey’s intervention in Libya would give it a foothold in the natural-resources-rich Middle East, where its international ties to many countries are strained.
This is especially significant for Egypt, since it shares a long border with Libya, backs Haftar’s LNA and its relationship with Turkey has been tense for years.
On Saturday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that his country has a legitimate right to intervene in Libya and ordered the army to be prepared to carry out missions if necessary.
He said: “Any direct intervention from the Egyptian state has now acquired international legitimacy,” adding that Egypt had received “direct threats” from “terrorist militias and mercenaries” supported by foreign countries.
Earlier in June, Egypt had called for a ceasefire in Libya, however, in his recent speech Sisi said that Egypt has always been reluctant to intervene in Libya but “the situation now is different.”
“If some people think that they can cross the Sirte-Jufra frontline, this is a red line for us,” he said.