Controlling Sirte, the Gateway to Libya’s Treasures

خليج سرت ليبيا

The Libyan internal conflict – started back in 2011 – is escalating, as tensions between external parties involved in this conflict are increasing.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who supports the Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Hafter, announced that Egypt might start a military intervention in Libya, since Turkey is reinforcing its presence in the country in favor of the GNA, preparing to launch an attack to regain control of Sirte.

According to analysts, this escalation would be a pressure card to force Turkey to waiver the military solution and sit on negotiations’ table according to new international terms.

Russia pushes towards activating the takeaways of Berlin conference and unifying positions to adopt the Egyptian initiative. In this context, the Deputy Speaker of the Libyan Parliament in Tobruk, Ahmida Houmah, announced that the parliament received an invitation from Russia to discuss a number of issues, most notably the Cairo Declaration, and the takeaways of the Berlin Conference.

They also addressed the initiative of the Parliament Speaker who pushed to achieve a ceasefire and returning to the political process, in other words, supporting Russian endeavors to reach a ceasefire.

Consensus between International Players

According to analysts, the consensus between the international players is the decisive point in the upcoming period. The dispute now revolves around how to share the Libyan wealth, especially its gas and oil in the Mediterranean. Turkey signed a bilateral agreement with the Al-Saraj government, stipulating military and maritime cooperation.

International players are aware that Turkey’s presence in Libya has become a de facto, especially that it is a military presence.

The reaction of EU, France in particular, in addition to Egypt and the GCC countries aimed at limiting the Turkish expansion in Libya. This comes as Russia is ready for negotiations, but the main concern for all the parties is their incompatibility how to share the Libyan cake.

The Libyan solution is now subject to a full consensus between Russia, Europe, the US, Egypt and the GCC countries, especially after the Egyptian President announced that Sirte would be a red line.

International players are now calling for putting the Berlin conference agreements into force and supporting the Egyptian initiative, as they are not supporter of war and dividing Libya. They would rather rethink of Libya’s wealth and put strategic plans to end the Libyan conflict according to their major interests.

Proxy War

Observers attributed the continued escalation in the Libyan conflict and to the large number of competing foreign parties and the complexity of their interests.

The split between the GNA and the Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, has turned from a proxy war to direct confrontation between the most prominent supporters of the two parties, Egypt and Turkey.

In the light of Cairo’s recent threat of direct intervention to preserve its national and Arab security if Turkey exceeds the declared as red lines in the cities of Sirte and Al-Jafra, and Ankara’s insistence to move militarily toward the east, the international and regional fears of repeating the Syrian scenario in North Africa.

Gateway

Sirte has a strategic location on a distance of 1955 km. The city is considered the gateway to many regions of Libya, as it is in the middle of the road between Tripoli and Benghazi. It is also located at a distance of 1000 km from the Egyptian border, less than 200 km from Misrata, the forces’ center loyal to the GNA, from which the Turks move comfortably.

In addition to its special location, Sirte is the backbone to attack oil ports from the west for anyone who wants to control the largest part of the Libyan oil reserves. The city is adjacent to the Libyan oil crescent with the largest oil reserves of the country. 80% of Libya’s oil exports that pass through the ports of Brega, Ras Lanuf, Sidra and Zuaitina.

Controlling Sirte is considered as the gate of Ali Baba that leads to the treasures of Libya, located only 150 km east of Sirte. If Erdogan wins in Sirte, he would solve his country’s economic problems, but the oil tanks will make the battles more dangerous.

The Gulf of Sirte also contains natural resources that international exploration companies lie in wait for, after the largest gas reserves were discovered in the underground Sirte basin. It is one of the reasons for a cold conflict between Italy and France, where the companies of Total and Eni compete to ensure having contracts for exploration and production in the future.

Strategically, the port of Sirte is the most important one in Libya and in addition to the Sirte International airport the most important Libyan gateway overlooking a bay. Moreover, the Qardabiya air base is located south of the city and Al-Jafra base, located 300 km to the south, a starting point towards Tripoli in the west, Benghazi to the east and Sabha to the south, facilitating supply lines in case of war.

All publishing rights and copyrights reserved to MENA Research and Study Center