Delegates from Libya’s warring factions met yesterday with a UN envoy in Morocco, where they were under pressure to agree on names to lead a unity government and revive a stalled peace process.
Four years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has descended into a conflict between two rival governments and their armed allies that Western nations fear could fragment the North African country into a failed state.
Libya’s internationally recognised government and the elected House of Representatives has been confined to the east since an armed faction Libya Dawn took over Tripoli last year, set up its own government and reinstated a former parliament known as the General National Congress (GNC).
After months of negotiations and stalled talks, the United Nations has presented the two sides with a deal to form a national unity government and a peace agreement to end the turmoil, which has allowed Islamist militants to gain ground.
Talks missed several deadlines to finalise an agreement. Yesterday, a source close to negotiations said UN envoy Bernardino Leon began holding discussions with participants about names of candidates for a unity government. Hardliners from both sides have resisted a deal. The governments are backed by loose alliances of former anti-Gaddafi rebels, former soldiers, tribal factions and Islamist-leaning brigades, some of whom are reluctant to sign up to a peace deal with rivals.
The UN and western governments are pressuring both sides to reach a final deal as Islamic State militants gain ground there and smugglers take advantage of the chaos to send thousands of illegal migrants and asylum seekers across the Mediterranean to Europe.
Peace talks have missed several deadline to finalise an agreement
Meanwhile Libya’s oil production has dropped to 300,000 barrels per day, less than a quarter of what it produced before the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi, mostly because of insecurity and closed pipelines, a top official said.
Naji Moghrab, the top state oil official with the recognised government, told a local television channel late on Sunday, output was at 300,000 bpd because of fighting between various armed factions and the closure of 50,000 km of oil pipeline.
Following the government split, Libya now has two rival state oil companies. One is with the recognised government and one with the Tripoli government, yielding often conflicting accounts of who controls what oil assets.
“The main problem behind the low production is insecurity, and of course the presence of Daesh near the oilfields,” Moghrab said, referring the Islamic State militants who have gained ground in Libya in the chaos.
Fighters allied with Islamic State, the Islamist militant group controlling parts of Iraq and Syria, attacked forces guarding one of Libya’s main oil ports on Thursday with a gun assault and an attempted car bomb.
But that eastern port, Es Sider, and the other main port, Ras Lanuf, have been closed since December because of fighting between armed factions allied to the opposing governments. Several oilfields have been shut for months by protesters blocking pipelines.
Before the 2011 uprising that ousted Gaddafi, Libya produced around 1.6 million bpd. But in recent years, its production has been almost constantly less than half that because of fighting or protests over jobs and salaries by local residents and workers.
The recognised government has been campaigning for oil companies to abandon contracts signed with Tripoli’s National Oil Corporation, but many partners are wary as much of the state oil company’s infrastructure and contracts remain in the capital.
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