In a sign that Libya’s powerful military is moving closer to Russia, Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar - the man responsible for recapturing the country’s oil ports and essentially restarting production - met on August 15, 2017, top officials in Moscow.
Haftar is the key political rival to the Western-backed central government in Tripoli, and his trip to Russia indicates a fragile game of alliances that could upset the delicate balance of control over Libyan oil.
Haftar visited Russia at least twice in the past year, and has been forging friendly relations with Moscow.
On Monday, Haftar said in Moscow that troops under his command had taken control over Libya’s 2nd-biggest city, Benghazi, which is close to many oil fields and is an oil infrastructure hub.
Haftar’s LNA recaptured Libya’s key ports in the east and handed control over them to the National Oil Company (NOC), and crude exports were resumed after a 2-year blockade by the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) - an armed group affiliated at the time with the UN-backed Libyan government. The PFG had used its control to extract money from various authorities.
Factional fighting at some ports returned in March this year, and a rival faction seized the terminals for a few days, but Haftar’s LNA had reclaimed the ports by mid-March.
No major fights over port facilities have been recorded since then, which allowed the North African country to restore its crude oil production to over 1 million bpd for the 1st time in 4 years.
In July 2017, Libya’s average production topped 1 million bpd, as per OPEC secondary sources, with the North African producer exempt from the cuts raising output by 154,300 bpd from June and accounting for most of the total OPEC production rise.