Renewed Armed Clashes in Tripoli Threaten Libya’s Oil Exports

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Renewed clashes broke out over the weekend in oil-rich Libya’s capital, Tripoli. Militia forces aligned with the Government of National Unity (GNU) moved to ensure control, after a failed attempt by the rival eastern-backed Prime Minister, Fathi Bashagha to take the city last week.
Fighting took place in the city’s western outskirts on Friday and Saturday.

As the backbone of its economy, oil has been at the core of the unrest that followed Muammer Gaddafi’s overthrow. This has been a slow-burn conflict, with periodic flare-ups of intense fighting.

Control of the revenues from Libya’s main export, which currently pumps 1.22 million barrels per day, has long been the biggest prize for all the main political and military factions. Factions have used oil facilities as bargaining chips to secure financial and political demands.

The National Oil Corporation (NOC) has stated that it hoped to boost output to 2 million bpd over the next three to five years, but progress may be slowed by the country’s inability to resolve its internal political rivalries.

GNU Prime Minister, Abdel-Hamid Dbaiba is attempting to shore up control and weed out militias aligned with Bashagha. Dbaiba’s key concern now is gaining control of various armed factions within Tripoli, who have not aligned definitively with one side or the other.

Turkey could play the role of kingmaker here, with the ability to military intervene on either Dbaiba’s or Bashagha’s side. Both PM’s visited the Turkish capital last week.

Al-Monitor claimed that a quiet Turkish intervention has “tipped the balance of power in favour of Dbaiba”, and cites unnamed sources as saying that Bashagha left the meeting in Ankara “disgruntled”, though there is no independent confirmation of this.

Crude production reached a two-year low of 650,000 bpd in June, according to the latest Platts survey of OPEC+ output by S&P Global Commodity Insights, against a capacity of 1.2 million b/d.

Libya has Africa’s largest oil reserves and hydrocarbons, which account for 95% of government revenues. This makes the control of the industry a key point of contention between its rival parties.