US threatens to sanction Haftar over 'Russian influenced' oil blockade

US threatens to sanction Haftar over 'Russian influenced' oil blockade
The US has threatened to sanction Khalifa Haftar over an oil blockade which they say is influenced by Russia.
2 min read
27 July, 2020
The US is threatening Haftar [Getty]

The US has threatened Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar with sanctions over his refusal to reopen oil exports, a decision which Washington said was influenced by Russia.

Military contractors linked to Russia have seized control of two of Libya’s largest oil facilities, which has exasperated tensions between Russia and the US over the former's growing footprint in Libya.

According to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Haftar initially let ports reopen but promptly changed his mind when Wagner Group - a Russian security force - moved to the Es-Sider terminal.

Read also: Algerian president warns against 'Somalisation of Libya' after Egypt proposes arming eastern tribes

"The State Department communicated the threat of sanctions to Haftar because he was being ridiculous and uncompromising with oil installations in eastern Libya," said one US official as cited by WSJ.

Without mentioning names or states, the US Embassy in Libya threatened those who "undermine Libya's economy."

"Those who undermine Libya's economy and cling to military escalation will face isolation and risk of sanctions," the embassy tweeted last week.

US officials expressed hope that sanctions could force Haftar to find an understanding with rival Fayez Al-Sarraj and see him severing ties with Russia.

Haftar is a US citizen, as well as Libyan and a former CIA asset, who used to live in exile in Virginia.

According to US property records, Haftar's two properties in the US state of Virginia are worth $549,000, making him vulnerable to US sanctions, the WSJ said.

Libya has been in a state of internal conflict since a Western-backed uprising in 2011 overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Since 2015, a power struggle has pitted the UN-recognised, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) against forces loyal to Haftar, who is based in eastern Benghazi.

The US officially backs the UN-recognised government led by Sarraj, but its stance has also faced questions, with President Donald Trump praising Haftar last year.

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