Libya’s oil industry – the sole reliable source of revenue for the strife-torn country – has been plunged into chaos after its United Nations-recognised government was forced to urge the UN to block any sales from its main oil terminals.
The key terminals in the east of the country were captured from local militias last week by the so-called Libyan National Army, headed by strongman Khalifa Haftar. But on Tuesday Haftar announced his forces would send the revenues to a rival oil corporation in the country’s east rather than the UN-recognised National Oil Corporation (NOC).
Haftar won control of the key oil terminals in the Gulf of Sirte from militia last week after 10 days of fierce fighting that left more than 300 people dead.
The transfer of the ports, including Libya’s biggest, Es Sider, threatens to unsettle markets as purchasers are left struggling to identify legitimate Libyan traders.
Haftar, the dominant figure on the east of the country, clearly feels he will benefit if the Tripoli-based government of national accord is starved of oil revenue. His decision threatens to deepen divisions between the east and west of the country, and makes it hard for oil firms to know who to deal with.
The clash will also complicate efforts by European leaders to reach agreements with Libya on controlling the flow of migrants through the country.
The current populist surge in Europe has largely been fuelled by the three years of migration from Africa to Italy. The absence of political unity in Libya has made it easier for the traffickers to operate in the country.
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