With all the attention on the war in Ukraine, Libya’s oil is under threat again as the prospect of a new civil war intensifies amid the gathering of militias at the gates of the western capital of Tripoli.
Libya now has two rival prime ministers, Abdul Dbeibah, the incumbent in Tripoli, and Fathi Bashagha, the newly sworn in prime minister from Tobruk to the east, creating a stalemate that risks further civil war, territorial division and armed conflict over control of the country’s vast oil wealth.
After amassing militiamen around Tripoli on Thursday to secure his entry into the capital, Bashagha claims to have withdrawn those at the gates of the city following pressure from the United Nations.
Civil war raged in Libya with two rival governments in the east and west from 2014 until a ceasefire was agreed in 2021. This ceasefire was expected to lead to elections last December, but neither faction fully controlled the country’s oil wealth and with no clear path to a vote, the elections were postponed.
The vacuum has given new players time to regroup, with Bashagha attempting to take over as prime minister, while incumbent Dbeibah refuses to resign in Tripoli.
In the meantime, the Libyan National Oil Company (NOC) faces renewed threats of closure as rival forces try to control production, exports and the distribution of the country’s oil revenues.
Libya’s oil ministry, at odds with the NOC, has backed rival new prime minister Bashagha.
This battle between rivals recently led to the closure of Libya’s two largest oil fields, Sharara and El Feel, when a valve was disrupted, leading the NOC to declare force majeure on 330,000 bpd. This force majeure has been lifted earlier this week.
Under pressure from the UN to avert another civil war, a UN envoy said on Friday that Libya’s rival prime ministers could hold direct talks to resolve the crisis, citing ‘positive reactions’ from both sides , Bloomberg reports. The UN statement comes after rival Prime Minister Bashagha announced the Thursday that he would go to Tripoli in a few days.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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