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Could Hifter's about-face on control of Libya's oil lead to real progress?

Khalifa Hifter’s decision to return control of the oil ports under his authority to the National Oil Corporation, three weeks after seizing them, could be seen as a goodwill gesture that will prompt genuine progress toward an agreement between the two sides.
Khalifa Haftar (C), the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, leaves after an international conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 29, 2018.  REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer - RC1C86F2EC00

In a surprising about-face, on July 10 eastern Libyan strongman Khalifa Hifter handed authority to manage Libya’s eastern oil ports back to the country’s legitimate Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation.

As noted in an earlier Al-Monitor article, the dispute was never really about who should have the right to export Libya’s oil, but rather about the system that distributes oil revenues among various entities and who has the right to preside over the system. Hifter has yet to explain why he relinquished control — and likely never will. He wisely avoided smuggling oil and his reversal could represent his bowing to international pressure. Behind the scenes, it appears that he made the case for the governor of the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) to be replaced, and then as it became clear that this desired outcome was never going to materialize, he backed down to a far more moderate face-saving concession. 

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