Amid speculation and conflicting reports over the head of the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) participation, Khalifa Haftar, the Palermo conference got off to a shaky start. Some analysts have suggested rumours over Haftar’s participation have reinforced his position as a critical figure in Libya’s future political roadmap. Overall, the most likely outcome from Palermo will be a renewed commitment to hold elections in 2019 and support to UN efforts, including an amended version of the UN Action Plan and economic reforms. Beyond political rhetoric, commitments, and statements, it would appear too early to assess Palermo’s ramifications. There is mounting evidence to suggest success in achieving breakthroughs will very much depend on what happens post-Palermo.
Over the reporting period, Whispering Bell recorded multiple developments related to Libya’s oil and gas sector. The National Oil Corporation (NOC) signed a letter of intent (LOI) with Italy’s Eni and Britain’s BP to resume oil exploration in Libya in London on 08 Oct. The LOI states that Eni will acquire 42.5% of BP’s Exploration and Production Sharing Agreement (EPSA) in zones A and B (onshore) and C (offshore). While the agreement is a mark of confidence in Libya’s oil and gas sector, insecurity and protests continue to undermine the NOC’s ambitions to raise production and attract more energy companies. .
Suspected Islamic State (IS) militants targeted the Fuqaha police station killing four, including the son of the Municipal Council’s head, and kidnapping at least nine others at night on 28 Oct. There were reports of a suspected IS convoy consisting of 25 armed vehicles moving into Fuqaha prior to the attack. At the time of writing, IS has yet to claim responsibility. Initial reports speculate the attack was fueled by the arrest of two prominent IS militants on 16 Oct. The attack, especially the kidnapping of locals, will contribute to already growing local calls for a Libyan National Army (LNA) intervention in the region and would give more legitimacy to the recently-announced “Murzuq Basin” operation.