Bomb Targets Thinni-Leon Meeting amid Oil Sector Setbacks
A meeting between Tobruk-based PM Abdallah al-Thinni and Head of UNSMIL Bernardino Leon was targeted today by a car bomb in Shahat. No victims were reported so far, even though at least ten bystanders were wounded by the explosion. Most worryingly, the meeting was supposed to take place in the nearby city of Baida, but was moved to Shahat only briefly before its scheduled time due to security concerns. This seems to suggest not only a breach of security procedures in the areas supposedly under control of the internationally recognized institutions, but also the presence of well placed informants of antagonist groups in the security apparatus of the Tobruk-based administration. Both Thinni’s government and the UNSMIL have quickly issued statements reaffirming their commitment to seek a political and peaceful solution to the ongoing crisis despite this terrorist attack.
To make things worse, especially for the country’s strained finances, during the past week the oil and ports sectors were marred by a series of setbacks. First, the el-Sharara oil field was stormed by gunmen, rumored to be Tuareg fighters affiliated with Misratan forces, who forced the oilfield’s production to stop. Then, news emerged about the ongoing blockade at Hariga’s port, where a tanker has been prevented from loading oil for the past three days. The block is enforced by members of the local security forces in response to the missed payments of their salaries during the past few months. Lastly, the El Fil oilfield near Murzuq was also forced to stop its production on Sunday due to security concerns and failures in the provision of electricity.
It is worth noting that the El Sharara and El Fil oilfields account respectively for 200,000 bpd and 130,000 bpd, while Hariga’s port has an export capacity of up to 120,000 bpd. Therefore, even though reserves in refineries connected to blocked oilfields are still high and optimism permeates stakeholders statements, Libya’s oil output is poised to be hit by a strong decrease in the medium term if these issues are not quickly resolved.
All in all, the past week seems to have pushed Libya into an even deeper and more complex crisis than the one we had before. To get a broader overview of what the past few days have meant for the country and see how theye relate to the broader international arena, you can head over to The Telegraph and read this article from Richard Spencer and David Blair which contains my contribution:
Jason Pack, from the consulting group Libya Analysis, said that outside backing was driving both sides in Libya’s civil war into ideologically more hardline positions. Gen Haftar and his allies were “flaunting their anti-Islamist credentials” in order to win international support. Meanwhile “waving the banner of the [Muslim] Brotherhood or jihad has drawn recruits and Qatari money for the Misurata-led alliance,” wrote Mr Pack.
Experts believe that Qatar and the other outside players are making it even harder to resolve Libya’s conflict by negotiation. “This intervention by foreign countries – despite signing up to agreements saying they would not intervene – is unhelpful because it’s encouraging each side to believe there is a military solution to the problem,” said Sir Richard Dalton, a former British Ambassador to Libya.