Foreign powers agreed to shore up a shaky truce in Libya at a summit in Berlin on Sunday, but the meeting was overshadowed by oilfield blockades by forces loyal to leader Khalifa Haftar that could cripple crude output in the region.
Haftar, whose self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) is bearing down on the capital, Tripoli, supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russian mercenaries and African forces, attended the one-day summit in the German capital last week despite losing negotiations over a cease-fire.
Turkey has rushed forces to Tripoli and Syrian-backed Turkish fighters to help Libya’s internationally-recognized Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj combat the attack of eastern commander Haftar.
Notwithstanding a lull in airstrikes and less combat over the past 10 days, heavy artillery fire exchanges could be heard late on Sunday from some front lines south of Tripoli, residents said.
Libya has not had a functioning central authority since 2011 when NATO-backed rebels overthrew Dictator Muammar Gaddafi. It has had two rival governments for more than five years, in the East and the West, with armed groups patrolling the streets.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that a preliminary truce in Tripoli over the past week should be converted into a lasting ceasefire to enable a diplomatic process to take place at the Berlin Summit, attended by the main supporters of rival Libyan factions.
A special committee consisting of five soldiers from each side would oversee the ceasefire, she said. Foreign powers involved in Libya committed to maintaining an established U.N. She added: Weapons embargo and stop shipping weapons there.
Serraj and Haftar did not meet in Berlin, Merkel said, highlighting the gulf between the two.
“We know that we have not solved all of Libya’s problems today but we were aiming for fresh momentum,” she said.
Haftar, the most powerful figure in the East, has won support from a number of foreign allies for an attempt to capture Tripoli in the North, while Turkish support for Tripoli’s repelling effort has turned the conflict into a proxy war. The fighting for the capital has displaced more than 150,000 people.
OIL OUTPUT TO TUMBLE ‘IN DAYS’
A week ago Haftar left a Turkish-Russian meeting and intensified the dispute on Friday after the closure of the eastern oil ports. Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) has said that Haftar’s forces directly ordered the shutdown.
On Sunday, after forces loyal to Haftar shut down a pipeline, NOC said the main southwestern fields of El Sharara and El Feel were closing.
The closures would slash Libya’s oil output from 1.2 million BPD to 72,000 barrels a day (BPD) in just a few days unless the blockages are removed, the NOC said.
Every lasting closure could hit Tripoli hard as the government is relying on oil revenues to finance its budget.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was very worried about the closure. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Serraj and Haftar had “in general” agreed to solve the output blockage, without giving a time frame.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that progress had been made toward a full-fledged truce in the war in Libya, adding that he hoped the negotiations would reopen Libyan oil facilities.
The east under Haftar has made efforts to export oil, bypassing the NOC, to acquire a greater share of oil revenues.
The Summit was attended by Pompeo and European and Arab leaders, and Haftar’s forces published images of him meeting with Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash of the United Arab Emirates tweeted on Sunday night that the UAE supported efforts by the Berlin Conference to seek a political solution to the Libya crisis.