16 – 22 September: Russia brokers deal to restart oil production

Sep 23, 2020 | International actors

On 17 September, details emerged of a Russian-brokered deal negotiated in Sochi between the Presidential Council (PC)/Government of National Accord (GNA) Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq (representing himself) and Khalid Haftar, the son of the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar. Neither the GNA/PC nor the National Oil Corporation (NOC) participated in or were signatories to the deal, and as such the deal could not be said to be binding on them. The following day, LNA Commander Khalifa Haftar gave a speech on television in which he announced that Libya’s oil ports would reopen, based on the agreement reached with Maiteeq. At this point, the NOC had the legal right to not restart production, but did not want to be seen to be blocking progress. On 19 September, the NOC announced the lifting of force majeure on ‘safe’ oil fields and ports. In its statement, the NOC added that it had instructed relevant companies to restart productions, but that ‘force majeure continues on the oil fields and ports that confirmed the presence of elements of Wagner and other armed groups that impede the activities and operations’ of the NOC.

Also on 17 September, the United Nations (UN) released a statement welcoming Serraj’s announcement to resign. In the statement, acting head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Stephanie Williams said the announcement ‘comes at a decisive turning point in Libya’s longstanding crisis when it is clear that the situation is no longer sustainable’. On 18 September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly expressed his regret over the announcement, adding that Haftar was ‘trying to exploit civilians’ and would be ‘defeated sooner or later’.

On 21 September, the European Union (EU) foreign ministry imposed economic sanctions on 3 companies for violating the Libyan arms embargo. The EU also sanctioned 2 Libyan individuals: commander of the LNA’s al-Saiqa Brigade, Mahmoud al-Werfalli (known for his beheadings of Islamists), and Mousa Diab, who held refugees and migrants in captivity in an illegal detention camp near Bani Walid and ‘is responsible for and has directly engaged in serious human rights abuses.