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Oil-Rich Libya Could Have One Government As Soon As This Month

Oil-rich Libya, torn between a UN-backed government based in Tripoli and an alternative administration and institutions in the east, could see the years-long political crisis solved this month by the creation of a single government, according to eastern strongman General Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar leads a self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) with a base in the eastern city of Benghazi. LNA is the main opponent of the UN-backed Libyan government based in the capital Tripoli in the west.

“Libyans will have a single cabinet this month,” the English version of Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat quoted Haftar as saying.

This past weekend, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that he was hopeful for a solution to the eight-year long conflict in Libya after a high-level meeting in Tunis.

“The UN Secretary-General acknowledged that there are difficulties, but stressed that a window of opportunity has been created by the recent historic meeting in Abu Dhabi between Libya’s Prime Minister, Faiez Serraj, and a key rival military leader, the Commander of the Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar,” the UN said in a statement on Saturday.

Since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the division in Libya’s political landscape has resulted in frequent attacks on oil fields and infrastructure from various groups. For years, Libya has been struggling to keep its oil production above 1 million bpd, compared to 1.6 million bpd before the civil war began.

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Forces loyal to Haftar control the four oil ports in the so-called Oil Crescent in the east and the major oil fields there.

In February, Haftar forces took control over Sharara, the largest oil field in Libya, located in the south and capable of pumping 315,000 bpd.

In early March, the Sharara oil field returned to operations after being closed for production in December, when clashes between militant groups forced the National Oil Corporation (NOC) to declare a force majeure.

Sharara has been one of the main reasons why Libya is widely seen as a wild card in global oil price forecasts. Since it accounts for around a third of the country’s total oil output, Sharara, like the export terminals in the Oil Crescent, has become a natural target for various groups vying for power and control over Libya’s oil wealth.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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