After a 2022 marked by great division, 2023 could be the year of change in Libya.
For at least ten months, Libya has been split between two rival political and military coalitions: on the one hand, the Government of National Unity based in Tripoli of Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dabaiba, recognized by the international community and supported by Turkey; on the other, the government of national stability led by the designated prime minister Fathi Bashagha.
In fact it is a parallel executive based in Cyrenaica, initially from Egypt and Russia but now increasingly abandoned to itself.
Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, the strong man of Benghazi and commander of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, has been in dialogue behind the scenes with the Tripoli authorities for some time, effectively discharging the parallel government in Tobruk.
The OPEC member country’s oil production recovered after mid-year lockdowns and is now stable at 1,2 million barrels of oil. The ceasefire in force since October 2020 is holding, but the Syrian mercenaries of Turkey and the Russians of the Wagner group continue to be on the ground.
There were sporadic episodes of armed attacks, in particular the failed attempt by forces linked to Bashagha to enter Tripoli on August 27, which cost the lives of more than 30 people.
In his latest briefing to the United Nations Security Council, the United Nations Special Envoy to Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, he urged the member countries of the Security Council “to help Libyans mark 2023 as the year of the beginning of a new era through the rise of legitimate institutions through free and fair elections”.
To achieve this goal, the Senegalese politician – who took over from the US in September Stephanie Williams at the head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (Unsmil) – asked to “exert pressure” on Libyan leaders to agree on the rules for presidential and parliamentary elections which, according to him, should be held simultaneously.
The international situation could be favorable to this design. The presence in Italy of a stable political government with full powers, the slow rapprochement underway between Turkey and Egypt, the launch of a more pragmatic foreign policy by the United Arab Emirates are all elements that could favor the elections and, more in general, the reunification of the country.
Libya’s path is also linked to the presidential elections in Turkey in June 2023. The Turkish head of state, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has invested heavily in the North African country, actually without receiving much in return.
In fact, Italy, and not Turkey, is Libya’s main trading partner, with a value that exceeded 2022 billion euros in the first nine months of 9,02.
According to data released by the Tripoli office of the Agency for the promotion abroad and internationalization of Italian companies (ICE), since the beginning of 2022 trade has recorded an increase of 80,85 percent compared to the same period of 2021, with a market share of 23,66 percent, ahead of:
- China (3,67 billion euros of trade and 9,62 percent of market share),
- Spain (3,23 billion euros of trade and 8,47 per cent of market share),
- Greece (3,16 billion euros and 8,47 per cent of the market),
- Germany (2,91 billion euro of trade and 7,82 per percent of the market share),
- Turkey (2,54 billion euros and 6,67 percent of the market) and
- United States (1,84 billion euros of trade and 4,82 percent of the market share).
A possible turning point could also come from the announcement of new and huge quantities of gas offshore Libya.
Last December, the managing director of Eni, Claudio Descalzi, spoke of the discovery of large quantities of hydrocarbons in Libya: “We have discovered a lot of oil and gas, especially gas. We hope to be able to start new projects in Libya”.
Eni is the only international company that has never left the country (not even during the war) and which in addition guarantees the country’s only source of income, moreover while oil prices on international markets are very high, and is to invest several tens of billions of dollars in the North African country.
It is no coincidence that a few days ago the Libyan Supreme Council for Energy Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dabaiba, reviewed cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector with the Italian company Eni, in particular as regards exploration areas A and E.
Structure A is located in the central part of Block NC41, approximately 75 kilometers from the Libyan coast in a water depth of between 93 and 145 metres, while Structure E is located in the central-eastern part of Block NC41, approximately 125 kilometers from the Libyan coast in a water depth between 205 and 235 meters.
The Libyan National Oil Corporation gives at least four reasons why the project needs to be implemented immediately.
First: Gas production at the Al Wafa and Al Salam fields will start declining in 2025 by more than 440 million cubic feet per day, which will lead to a shortfall in the supply of gas for domestic consumption and, if this loss is not compensated with investments and increasing production, the Libyan state will find itself in the paradoxical situation of having to import gas to power gas-fired power plants.
Second: The planned investment of $8 billion will bring Libya back to the fore again and attract investors from the oil and gas sector, which will lead to the advancement of the economy, creating many job opportunities and increasing income levels .
Third: the return that the Libyan state will get from this investment is estimated at 13-18 billion dollars, after recovering capital and operating expenses.
Fourth: the announcement of this project in 2023 will prompt the contracting companies engaged in the exploration of exploratory blocks, onshore and offshore, to start their activities.