Libyan con­flict reaches new phase as fight­ing nears oil cres­cent

The National - News - - NEWS - CAL­LUM PA­TON

Diplo­matic ef­forts to end the Libya con­flict turned to pre­vent­ing re­newed violence near the coastal city of Sirte and the re­source-rich re­gion known as the oil cres­cent be­yond.

On Wed­nes­day, UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res told the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil that a de­mil­i­tarised zone could be cre­ated to pre­vent clashes break­ing out around Sirte when eastern and western fac­tions and their in­ter­na­tional back­ers squared off.

“The con­flict has en­tered a new phase with for­eign in­ter­fer­ence reach­ing un­prece­dented lev­els, in­clud­ing in the de­liv­ery of so­phis­ti­cated equip­ment and the num­ber of mer­ce­nar­ies in­volved in the fight­ing,” Mr Guter­res said.

Violence es­ca­lated in re­cent months af­ter Turkey in­ter­vened to bol­ster the Govern­ment of Na­tional Ac­cord in Tripoli.

Govern­ment forces are now on the out­skirts of Sirte af­ter gain­ing the up­per hand over Field Marshal Khal­ifa Haf­tar’s Libyan Na­tional Army.

“GNA units, with sig­nif­i­cant ex­ter­nal sup­port, con­tin­ued their ad­vance east­ward and are now 25 kilo­me­tres west of Sirte af­ter two pre­vi­ous at­tempts to gain con­trol of the city,” Mr Guter­res said.

“How­ever, we are very con­cerned about the alarm­ing mil­i­tary build-up around the city and the high level of di­rect for­eign in­ter­fer­ence in the con­flict, in vi­o­la­tion of the UN arms em­bargo.”

Cen­tral Jufra district and Sirte are gate­ways to the oil cres­cent and a se­ries of ports and oil ter­mi­nals to the east of the city.

Four of Libya’s six hy­dro­car­bon ex­port ter­mi­nals are on the coast of the Gulf of Sirte and more than 50 per cent of the coun­try’s crude oil ex­ports leave through those cen­tres.

Restart­ing oil ex­ports from Libya is a ma­jor part of UN ef­forts to achieve a peace deal in Libya.

On Wed­nes­day, the coun­try’s Na­tional Oil Cor­po­ra­tion lifted mea­sures on the Es Sider oil ter­mi­nal, east of Sirte, pav­ing the way for higher oil ex­ports from the Opec mem­ber.

The move was wel­comed by the UN, but Petroleum Fa­cil­i­ties Guard forces in con­trol of the port con­tin­ued to block a tanker from en­ter­ing Es Sider.

Dr An­war Gar­gash, Min­is­ter of State for For­eign Af­fairs, called for a cease­fire in the coun­try and for sig­na­to­ries to the Ber­lin Con­fer­ence on Libya held in Jan­uary to sup­port its con­clu­sions, which in­clude back­ing a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the con­flict.

“Six months af­ter the con­fer­ence, the UAE re­grets the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in coun­try,” he said.

“This down­ward spi­ral can be at­trib­uted to the con­tin­u­ous for­eign and re­gional in­ter­fer­ence in Libya’s in­ter­nal af­fairs.”

In the months since the con­fer­ence, the prin­ci­pal point of progress in Libya, a recom­mit­ment to the long-flouted arms em­bargo, lies in tat­ters.

The coun­try is more awash with arms and for­eign fight­ers than be­fore, with Turkey re­cruit­ing about 10,000 Syr­ian mer­ce­nar­ies.

“The grow­ing pres­ence of mer­ce­nar­ies and for­eign fight­ers ex­ac­er­bates the con­flict,” Dr Gar­gash said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.