A threat to Libya’s oil production has overshadowed a recent summit where foreign powers have called on the country’s warring parties to remain faithful to a fragile ceasefire in the war-ravaged North African state.
- Supporters of Libya’s warring factions met in Berlin on Sunday
- They agreed on a communique recommending a ceasefire to the parties involved
- A rival government in Libya’s east convinced oil producers to halt production
Foreign powers active in Libya — including Turkey, Egypt, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates — have also committed themselves to uphold an existing United Nations arms embargo.
On Sunday, global powers including the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, Russia and Turkey converged in Berlin to bring about a reprieve in fighting on all sides.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that the main backers of rival factions had agreed that a truce in Tripoli over the past week should be turned into a permanent ceasefire to allow a political process to take place.
However, on Friday, Khalifa Haftar, whose self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) controls large swathes of the country’s east, ordered his forces to shut down oil ports in the region.
Libya has had no stable central authority since dictator Moamar Gaddafi was overthrown by NATO-backed rebels in 2011.
For more than five years it has had two rival governments, in the east and the west, with streets controlled by armed groups.
The LNA has launched attacks on the country’s internationally-recognised government since April 2019 in the Libyan capital Tripoli — with the backing of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russian mercenaries and African troops.
Turkey, meanwhile, has rushed troops to Tripoli, as well as Turkish-backed fighters from Syria, to help the internationally-recognised Government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj.
It is estimated that more than 150,000 people have been displaced amid the fighting across the country, including scores of refugees held in detention centres.
Foreign powers will not enforce ceasefire
The summit’s final statement said the participants “call on all actors to refrain from any activities exacerbating the conflict or inconsistent with the (UN) arms embargo or the ceasefire, including the financing of military capabilities or the recruitment of mercenaries.”
Ms Merkel told reporters that a special committee made up of five military men from each side will monitor the ceasefire.
@lovedayM tweet: Libya summit falls short on ceasefire, instead calls on parties to redouble efforts to reach one. From final communique:
There was no explicit commitment, however, to withdrawing existing military support.
“We know that we have not solved all of Libya’s problems today but we were aiming for fresh momentum,” she said.
She added the conference hadn’t discussed specific sanctions for violating the arms embargo.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the Berlin conference had succeeded in fending off “the risk of a true regional escalation.”
“That risk was averted in Berlin — provided, of course, that it is possible to maintain the truce and then to move into a ceasefire,” he said.
Mr Guterres said that the committee would be convened “in Geneva in the coming days”.
@GuyVerhofstadt tweet: Hopefully the world leaders will do more than just “seek a ceasefire” for Libya. Because in 2011, we eliminated Gaddafi and abandoned the Libyans to their fate. Instead, we should’ve helped them to stabilize their country and create a real democracy.
Since the NATO bombing campaign that helped overthrow Libya’s Moamar Gaddafi, Russia, Turkey and Arab states to have played a larger role in shaping Libya’s future.
A call for a ceasefire from Russia and Turkey helped reduce fighting a week ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin said ahead of a meeting with Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the conference.
“We don’t lose hope that dialogue will continue and the conflict will be solved,” Mr Putin said.
Pro-Haftar forces strangle eastern oil production
General Haftar escalated the conflict on Friday when eastern oil ports were shut down.
Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) said the shutdown was directly ordered by General Haftar’s forces.
On Sunday, as international leaders were gathering in the German capital, state oil firm NOC said the major southwestern fields of El Sharara and El Feel were closing after forces loyal to Mr Haftar shut a pipeline.
The closures will cut Libya’s oil output to 72,000 barrels a day (bpd) from 1.2 million bpd in just a few days’ time unless the blockages are lifted, the NOC said.
Any lasting closure could hit Tripoli hard since the Government relies on oil sales for revenue.
Mr Guterres said he was very worried about the closure.
German foreign minister Heiko Maas said Prime Minister al-Serraj and General Haftar had “in general” agreed to solve the output blockage, without giving a timeframe.
The east under General Haftar has tried to export oil, bypassing the NOC, to gain a greater share of oil revenues.