With all attention on the war in Ukraine, Libyan oil is once again coming under threat as the prospect of a renewed civil war intensifies amid the amassing of militia forces at the gates of the western capital of Tripoli.
Libya now has two rival prime ministers, Abdul Dbeibah, the incumbent in Tripoli, and Fathi Bashagha, the newly-sworn-in prime minister from Tobruk in the east, creating a standoff that risks a new civil war, territorial division and armed conflict for control of the country’s vast oil riches.
After amassing militia on Thursday around Tripoli to secure his entrance into the capital, Bashagha claimed to have withdrawn those at the gates of the city following pressure from the United Nations.
Civil war raged in Libya with two rival governments in the east and west from 2014 until a ceasefire was agreed in 2021. That ceasefire was intended to lead to elections last December, but with neither faction fully in control of the country’s oil wealth and no clear pathway to a vote, elections were postponed.
That vacuum has given new players time to regroup, with Bashagha attempting to take over as prime minister, while incumbent Dbeibah refuses to step down in Tripoli.
In the meantime, the Libyan National Oil Company (NOC) faces renewed threats of shutdowns as rival forces attempt to control the country’s oil production, exports and distribution of revenues.
Libya’s Oil Ministry, at loggerheads with the NOC, has thrown its support behind the new rival prime minister, Bashagha.
This battle among rivals led recently to the shutdown of Libya’s two largest oilfields, Sharara and El Feel, when a valve was interfered with, leading the NOC to declare force majeure on 330,000 bpd. That force majeure was lifted earlier this week.
Under UN pressure to avoid another civil war, a UN envoy said on Friday that Libya’s rival prime ministers may hold direct talks to resolve the crisis, citing “positive feedback” from both sides, Bloomberg reports. The UN’s statement comes after rival prime minister Bashagha announced on Thursday that he would go to Tripoli in a matter of days.