A convoy of Russian mercenaries entered Libya’s Sharara oil field and met with the facility’s security forces yesterday, the country’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) said.
The meeting comes as the super sweet crude from the country’s major oil fields, under the influence of military strongman Khalifa Haftar, are shut down.
The United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) was hoping for a restart pumping at Sharara, which is located in Libya’s southwest, as the GNA broke out from Tripoli in recent months.
The NOC blames Haftar-aligned forces earlier this month for preventing Sharara from coming back online. So, bad news for ENI and Total that profits most from the hijacked oil refineries.
The corporation expressed “grave concern” about Wagner’s visit to Sharara. Mustafa Sanallah, head of the Tripoli-based NOC, accused some parties involved in the conflict of working in the background to support blockading forces.
Wagner operates as an unofficial arm of Russia’s Defense Ministry, which backs Haftar in his war against the Tripoli-based UN supported government.
If Sharara restores pumping, the GNA would gain access to revenue that would likely help its recent counter-campaign against Haftar’s so-called Libyan National Freedom Army.
The Tripoli-based NOC is the only body allowed under international agreement, enforced by the United States and European navies, to export oil from Libya.
But independently funded by the United Arab Emirates, Haftar’s side cut off pumping from the country’s major oil fields in January in order to boost his then-stalled campaign against Tripoli.
If the GNA cannot get the southern fields pumping again, then the conflict could become a spending war between the two sides’ foreign backers.
How long it would take before Turkey and the GNA consider accepting a cease-fire allowing Haftar’s control of Sirte is not clear.
AL Monitor / ABC Flash Point News 2020.