Libya’s Future and Haftar’s Oil Grab
Mattia Toaldo and Karim Mezran write for Atlantic Council, arguing that Libya could be headed towards a military confrontation between the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), and stressing the need for the international community to adopt a strong but neutral stance on illegal exports of Libyan oil as a means for de-escalation of the conflict.
Haftar is now in a position in which he can dictate the terms of his role in the future of Libya. He could, if he wanted, negotiate with Serraj and his international backers from a position of force. He now has territorial control over large parts of the eastern province, control over most of the oil resources and ports, a much better equipped and trained armed force under his command and powerful international backers Egypt, the UAE….
It is important that the United States and its European allies continue to stand against any sale of oil that does not come from the recognized National Oil Company. This isn’t about leaning towards one actor or the other, but about building the conditions for de-escalation through a deal on oil revenues. Haftar may manage to control some oil installations but without the NOC, he cannot legally sell any oil and therefore needs an agreement with the GNA in Tripoli. This agreement would confirm that oil resources belong to all Libyans and not to those who control them militarily, while avoiding the disastrous eventuality of a direct military confrontation.
A strong stance by the United States and Europe on the enforcement of UNSCR 2278 would make this deal more likely, yet this strong stance is not foreseeable. European special forces supported Haftar’s troops against jihadists in Benghazi and Misratan forces against ISIS in Sirte. This will probably prevent them from openly and militarily taking a stand perceived as favoring either contender. Yet, preserving the “neutrality” of oil in Libya would be a big driver for de-escalation, which should be an interest of everyone.
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