Libya’s warring factions ended several days of United Nations-brokered talks in Switzerland without reaching a deal to consolidate a provisional ceasefire and end a blockade of major export terminals that have crippled oil operations in the North African country.
Libya’s oil output has plunged to around 200,000 barrels per day from 1.2 million bpd in early January after forces loyal to renegade General Khalifa Haftar imposed a total blockade of major ports and forced the closure of oilfields.
The move has resulted in a complete halt to Libya’s crude exports, helping to soften the impact of China’s deadly coronavirus on oil prices.
The UN said on Saturday a second round of talks will be held later this month to try and find a settlement.
The UN hosted indirect talks between five officers from Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which has been trying to seize Tripoli since April, and the same number from forces of the internationally recognised government in the Libyan capital.
The current ceasefire was brokered by Russia and Turkey on 12 January. It marked the first break in fighting in months, although there have been repeated violations from both sides.
Oil-rich Libya is split between rival governments, each backed by an array of foreign countries apparently jockeying for influence in order to control Libya’s resources.
A UN statement said there was “broad consensus” between the two sides on “the urgency for Libyans to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity” and to “stop the flow of non-Libyan fighters and send them out of the country".
Both sides had agreed to continue the dialogue in Cairo, Eqgt on Sunday, with the UN proposing a follow-up meeting on 18 February in Geneva, Switzerland.
UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame said last week he had talked to tribesmen behind the blockade of the oil ports and was awaiting their demands.
The blockade will be at the top of the agenda at the meeting in Cairo between the representatives from eastern, western and southern Libya seeking to overcome economic divisions in the country.
The Cairo meeting is expected to be mainly attended by technical experts to prepare a wider dialogue to be followed in coming months.
In a sign that a reopening of ports might not be imminent, tribes and communities in oil-rich areas in eastern Libya held by the LNA said in a statement they opposed resuming oil exports unless Tripoli is freed of militias, a demand of the LNA.
Haftar is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia among others while the government in Tripoli enjoys the military and financial support of Turkey and Qatar.