The United States has stepped up pressure on Middle East allies to expel the Wagner Group, a military contractor with close ties to Russia’s president, from chaos-stricken Libya and Sudan where it expanded in recent years, regional officials told The Associated Press. The U.S. effort described by officials comes as the Biden administration is making a broad push against the mercenaries. The U.S. has slapped new sanctions on the Wagner Group in recent months over its expanding role in Russia’s war in Ukraine. The Biden administration has been working for months with regional powers Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to pressure military leaders in Sudan and Libya to end their ties with the group, according to more than a dozen Libyan, Sudanese, and Egyptian officials. They asked for anonymity to speak freely because they were not authorized to discuss the issue with the media. Read more from the AP.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief William Burns made a rare trip to Libya on Thursday, meeting Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah in Tripoli, the Libyan government said. Dbeibah’s Government of National Unity announced the visit on its Facebook page, posting a picture of Burns and Dbeibah together. Two sources close to eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, who is based in Benghazi, said Burns had also met with him. The CIA, which does not regularly announce such visits, declined to comment. Read more from Reuters.
Libya’s Minister of Oil and Gas, Mohammed Oun, met with US State Department and White House officials in Washington this week. During the meeting, Oun presented the ministry’s vision for the future of the oil sector, and its endeavor to improve transparency and good governance. Oun highlighted the importance of American technology and experience and the role the US can play in exploring and developing oil fields in Libya, in addition to exploiting shale oil and gas reserves which would contribute to the needs of the global market. The American side reaffirmed support for the vision of the Ministry of Oil and Gas in Libya and the importance of taking the benefit from oil revenues to serve Libyans, noting that the American administration does not object to providing technical and practical assistance through its companies in the field of oil and gas. Read more from the Libya Observer.
On Twitter, US Special Envoy Ambassador Richard Norland said, “The conclusion of discussions between the leaders of the HoR and HSC today in Cairo leaves no reason to delay setting an early date for parliamentary and presidential elections. We share the desire of all Libyans to see Libyan leaders adopt the necessary measures as quickly as possible allowing HNEC to proceed w/ setting the electoral process in motion. We express our appreciation to the Government of Egypt for facilitating this important milestone.” The United States strongly supports UNSMIL SRSG BAthily and calls for a national consensus in Libya on establishing a clear timeline for elections. There is no other way to secure stability and long-term peace. Read the full statement on Twitter.
Visa has pledged to invest $1 billion in Africa to accelerate digital transformation. The announcement was made during the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington on Dec 14. Visa will use the money to scale operations, deploy new technologies and deepen collaboration with its partners in the next five years. These include merchants, governments, financial institutions (FIs), FinTechs, and mobile network operators, according to a corresponding press release. The inclusion of mobile network operators reflects the different role Visa plays in Africa’s payment ecosystem compared to the United States. As well as acting as a partner to banks that issue credit and debit cards, Visa’s African operations require it to work alongside the continent’s mobile money and alternative payment FinTechs, which use solutions including mobile wallets and virtual cards to bring digital payments to unbanked populations. Read more from PYMNTS.
The Tripoli-based Government of National Unity officially approved today selling shares of the U.S. Hess Corporation in the Waha oilfield to France’s Total Energies and U.S. Conoco Phillips. Government spokesman Mohammed Hammouda made the announcement at a press conference in Tripoli, telling reporters that Hess Corporation’s 8.16 percent stake in the oil license is expected to be split equally between France’s TotalEnergies (4.08 percent) and ConocoPhillips (4.08 percent). The agreement in question had been reached by the companies a year ago but had attracted some opposition at the national level in view that a new government should decide on the matter after the December 2021 elections, which failed to take place until today. Read more from Libya Update.
US Assistant Secretary Barbara Leaf and US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland held talks in Tunis this week to discuss “prospects for boosting the U.S. diplomatic presence in Libya to promote stability, security cooperation, economic growth, and sustainable development”. “We eagerly hope that the US Embassy in Libya can permanently return to Tripoli as soon as possible to provide consular, trade promotion, educational advising, and other services,” stated the Office of Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. State Department via Twitter. “Libya’s full integration into the global economy is being hampered by actors pursuing destabilizing agendas undermining peace and national unity.” Read more from Libya Update.
An unmanned Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone crashed in the vicinity of Benghazi, Libya, earlier this week, prompting an investigation by US Africa Command, officials confirmed Wednesday. In a statement provided to Military Times, US AFRICOM spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Pietrack said that the “aircraft was operating in support of U.S. Ambassador and Special Envoy to Libya Richard Norland’s diplomatic engagements” when it crashed. Pietrack added that the aircraft’s operation schedule had already been “coordinated with the appropriate Libyan authorities. … We do not have any further information at this time.” It remains unclear whether the drone crash was the result of enemy fire, though there are reports it was shot down by eastern-based Libyan forces. Read more from Military Times.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced its cooperation with the General Electricity Company in Libya (GECOL) to develop an operational plan aimed at stabilizing the Libyan grid. The plan also aims at aligning the Libyan grid with the Libyan Emergency Network Stabilization Program, as part of an international multi-donor initiative. According to the USAID statement, the plan targets fair and equitable electricity distribution at the municipal level. Electricity will be cut off “fairly” for short and limited periods. As well as negotiations with the top consumers to divide their activity in off-peak hours. Read more from the Libya Observer.