Libya calls for US, EU sanctions on Russian mercenaries, backers

Libya’s National Oil Corporation said foreign mercenaries forced their way into Sharara oilfield on Friday.

A general view of the El Sharara oilfield,
The Sharara oilfield produces more than 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day, roughly one-third of the oil-rich country's production [File: Ismail Zitouny/Reuters]

Libya’s permanent representative to the United Nations has called for the United States and the European Union to impose sanctions over the activities of Russian mercenaries and other actors involved in the conflict in the North African country.

Russian mercenaries and other foreign fighters forced their way into the Sharara oilfield on Friday, according to Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC).

“Since UN Sec Council failed to sanction individuals/mercenaries as Wagner/Haftar and others, who violate all resolutions, US/EU should take such actions and freeze assets as any terrorist organisation and hold who finance them accountable,” Taher el-Sonni wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

On Friday, the NOC said Russian and other foreign mercenaries entered Sharara oilfield in a convoy of vehicles and met representatives of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), forces established to maintain security at the oilfields.

The Sharara oilfield produces more than 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day, forming roughly one-third of the oil-rich country’s production.

The oilfield resumed production on June 7 after a months-long hiatus which caused billions of dollars in losses.

On Friday, the US embassy in Libya condemned the occupation of the oilfield by Wagner and other foreign mercenaries as part of “an unprecedented foreign-backed campaign to undermine Libya’s energy sector”.

The Kremlin has denied that it uses private military contractors abroad.

Libya holds Africa’s largest crude reserves, but nine years of conflict and violence since the overthrow of ruler Muammar Gaddafi have hobbled production and exports.

In April 2019, renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive against the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). More than 1,000 people have been killed in the violence.

Forces aligned with the GNA have pushed Haftar’s fighters out of much of northwestern Libya in recent weeks after Turkey intensified its support to the GNA.

Haftar’s forces, which are supported by Russia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt, have maintained control of eastern Libya.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies