Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha said Saturday the occupation of foreign mercenaries of the country’s oilfields was a threat to Libya’s national security.
On Friday, mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group and the Sudanese Janjaweed militia forced their way into El-Sharara oilfield to halt oil experts from the field, according to Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC).
Writing on Twitter, Bashagha described the occupation of El-Sharara oilfield by foreign mercenaries as a “dangerous precedent”.
“This is a grave threat to Libya’s national security and harms the interests of US and European oil firms,” he said.
Bashagha accused an Arab state of complicity in the halt of Libyan oil supplies. He, however, did not name this Arab country.
The Libyan minister went on to call on the EU to list Wagner Group as a terror-sponsor entity for “committing crimes against humanity”.
The El-Sharara oilfield produces more than 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day, forming roughly one-third of the oil-rich country’s production.
The oilfield resumed production on June 7 after a months-long hiatus which caused billions of dollars in losses.
On Friday, the US Embassy in Libya condemned the occupation of the oilfield by Wagner and other foreign mercenaries as part of “an unprecedented foreign-backed campaign to undermine Libya’s energy sector”.
Libya holds Africa’s largest crude reserves, but nine years of conflict and violence since the 2011 ouster of ruler Muammar Gaddafi have hobbled production and exports.
The Libyan government, which enjoys recognition by the UN, has been under attack by warlord Khalifa Haftar’s militia since April 2019, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence.
In March, the government launched Operation Peace Storm to counter attacks on the capital Tripoli and recently regained strategic locations, including the Al-Watiya airbase and Tarhuna, which is viewed as a significant blow to Haftar’s forces.
US, Libyan government discuss disbanding militias
The US said Friday it has held discussions with the UN-recognized government in Libya regarding the demobilization of its militias.
The discussions were held with representatives from the the Government of National Accord’s Interior Ministry, and the State Department said the body “briefed the U.S. side on its efforts to promote security and a program for militia disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR), as well as ongoing work to neutralize unexploded ordnance in the Tripoli region.”
“The delegations reaffirmed that armed groups that attempt to spoil the political process or engage in criminal acts do so at a significant risk of international sanctions,” it said.
“The U.S. delegation stressed opposition to all foreign intervention in Libya and discussed the imperative of an immediate ceasefire and return to UN-facilitated security and political negotiations,” it added.
The US will also hold discussions with representatives from the Libyan National Army led by renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar, the department said.
On June 6, the Libyan government launched a military operation – Path of Victory – to liberate cities in eastern and central Libya, including Sirte, Jufra, towns in Wadi Wishka, Buerat, Jarif and Qasr Abu Haid.
Libya has been torn by civil war since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Libya’s new government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed due to the military offensive by Haftar’s forces, resulting in civilian chaos and more than 1,000 deaths.
In March, the Libyan government launched Operation Peace Storm to counter attacks on the capital, and recently retook strategic locations, including the Al-Watiya airbase and the city of Tarhuna, Haftar’s final stronghold in western Libya.