Libyan prime minister-designate Fathi Bashagha was forced out of the capital Tripoli on Tuesday by armed militias backed by current interim Prime Minister Adbdul Hamid Dbeibah, who refuses to step down and cede power as a significant amount of the country’s oil production capacity remains shut-in.
Armed clashes shook Tripoli on Tuesday as Bashagha, backed by the eastern-based parliament, entered the capital to assume power from Dbeibah, forcing the prime minister-designate to leave the city only hours after entering.
Clashes erupted when Bashagha entered the city with militia forces, prompting a response from Dbeibah’s militias.
One staff member of the Italian embassy was wounded during the clashes.
The rival prime ministers blame each other for starting the clashes, with Bashagha calling the Dbeibah government “hysterical”.
“Despite our peaceful entry to Tripoli, without use of violence and force of arms, and our reception by honorable people of Tripoli, we were surprised by dangerous military escalation carried out by armed groups affiliated with the outgoing government,” Bashagha tweeted.
“We are not seeking authority, but rather determined to build democratic civil state with elected authority, state governed by law, not governed by logic of violence and chaos sponsored by the outgoing government,” the new Prime Minister added.
The United Nations and the United States have urged calm.
“We urge all armed groups to refrain from violence and for political leaders to recognize that seizing or retaining power through violence will only hurt the people of Libya,” the U.S. Embassy in Libya said in a statement.
Some 600,000 bpd of Libyan oil production remains shut-in due to rivalry between Bashagha and Dbeibah over the distribution of oil revenues.
The Libyan National OIl Company (NOC) was forced in mid-April to declare force majeure on two oilfields, including its largest–Al Sharara–as well as on key export terminals. Libyan production is now hovering around 80,000 bpd.
Bashagha holds the key to resuming oil production. However, with no agreements forthcoming over oil revenues, without taking Tripoli and controlling the central bank, the prime minister-designate cannot force a new revenue distribution setup.