It seems that the the latest developments on the Libyan arena alarm Egypt’s al-Sisi as his ally Khalifa Haftar lost control of two key oil ports on Libya’s Mediterranean coast.
In this context, an Egyptian diplomatic source said that Haftar was invited to attend an emergency military meeting in Cairo, also set to include Russian and Emirati representatives, in the coming days, according to the New Arab.
According to the diplomatic source, the meeting is set to be headed by the chief of staff of the Egyptian Army Mohammad Hegazi, and will seek to develop a clear vision to enable Haftar to retake al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf.
In addition, talks will additionally focus on potential avenues to the escalated conflict in Libya, currently host to two rival governments – one in the east of the country, and loyal to Haftar, the other UN-backed and based in Tripoli – and a plethora of militias that have emerged since the toppling of Muammar al-Qaddafi, said the source.
Furthermore, Egyptian sources ,who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry and representatives of Egypt’s army will further hold talks with Mohammed Siyala, the foreign minister of Libya’s UN backed Government of National Accord later this month concerning trouble at the key oil terminals.
This meeting is set to take place on the side of an Arab League meeting set to take place in Jordan at the end of March.
This week, the forces of Libya’s Renegade General Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya admitted the loss of key oil export terminal which they seized last year.
According to Colonel Ahmad al-Mismari, the spokesperson for Haftar’s forces, the Libyan National Army(LNA), Haftar’s militias, had lost control of Ras Lanuf’s main airfield to forces led by Islamists of the Benghazi Defense Brigades.
On Friday, Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) took control of Ras Lanuf Airport in central Libya, in addition to Ben Jawad and Nofaliya towns, in a surprise attack on Dignity Operation forces, loyal to Haftar, there.
Benghazi Defense Brigades launched an excessive military operation to facilitate the return of Benghazi internally displaced persons (IDPs)to their city, according to Boshra News Agency, the news outlet of Benghazi Shura Council.
Last September, the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Haftar had taken over oil facilities in eastern Libya from Petroleum Facilities Guards, a rival militia force allied to the UN-backed government in the capital, Tripoli.
The LNA forces seized Zueitina, Brega, Ras Lanuf and al-Sidra in a lightning offensive that dealt a major blow to the UN-backed Government of National Accord.
Haftar is a military figure that is backed by the Tobruk government, based in eastern Libya and refuses to recognize the U.N.-backed government.
He enjoys the support of several Arab nations, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, as well as western countries such as France.
It was previously reported that Egypt’s al-Sisi sent weapons to Libya’s military strongman, in addition to military personnel, in order to train LNA forces.
Moreover, the Egyptian Armed Forces have been mandated to protect the joint borders from the sea to the Libyan-Sudanese borders.
In fact, Haftar had previously requested the Egyptian army to protect Libyan/Egyptian borders from Imsaad, in the north, to the Libyan/Sudanese borders, as well as the maritime boundaries between both countries, “meaning that Haftar has granted Egypt unprecedented authority on Libyan territory,” said Libya Prospect.
He also said the oil tankers transporting Libyan petrol from Haftar-controlled regions in the east will be under Egypt’s authority in practice, the oil tankers will only be able to carry the oil and export unless Cairo approves.
In addition, there were strong indications that Haftar succeeded in controlling the oil terminals eastern Libya with the assistance of the Egyptian Armed Forces.
Egypt warplanes assisted Haftar’s forces against the Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) who tried to regain control over Ras Lanuf oil terminal and the Gulf of Sidra. However, the PFG -led by Ibrahim Jadhran- have withdrawn from the Oil Crescent region in east Libya as a result of the warplanes attack.
At that time, the Defense Ministry in the UN backed government indicated that “foreign warplanes have played a key role in defeating PFG forces.”
Libya Observer cited local media which reported that the “PFG accused Egypt and the UAE of bombing their forces near the residential district of Ras Lanuf. Four PFG fighters were killed in the airstrikes.”
The Defense Minister-designate Al-Mihdi Al-Baraghati told Ajwa Net that “There are strong indications that the UAE and Egyptian warplanes bombed PFG forces in Ras Lanuf and Sidra, we are now making sure of these indications.”
As a result, Al-Sisi has empowered Haftar’s political position in negotiating with the GNA and the international community to maintain his status in the political arena.
However, the takeover of oil terminals from Haftar’s forces would probably has negative repercussions on Libya’s strongman.
According to high-level sources,”The loss (oil terminals)has raised questions about the former exiled-general’s military strength among backers in Egypt, Russia, and the Emirates.”
Accordingly, will al-Sisi and Haftar’s allies succeed in restoring back the country’s rich resource and thus maintain Haftar’s power?
The lion’s share of Libya’s oil exports is concentrated at are four ports along the “Oil Crescent” on the eastern part of the Gulf of Sirte.
The exports from the four ports constitute the main source of hard currency income and without them, Libya’s once huge currency reserves are being rapidly depleted.