Russia’s state-owned oil company, Zarubezhneft, has been invited to dispatch a delegation to Benghazi to visit the head office of the Arabian Gulf Oil Company (AGOCO), the NAtional Oil corporation’s (NOC) subsidiary that operates Sarir and Messla fields.
Africa Intelligence said on Friday that this rapprochement, discreetly supported by Khalifa Haftar, is a source of great concern to Washington and other Western nations.
“Farhat Omar Bengdara, who was appointed by Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dabaiba as the new head of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) in place of Mustafa Sanalla on 12 July, has lost no time at all in extending a friendly hand to Russian oil companies.” The website added.
It added that on 20 July, Salah Abdulkarim Al-Gotrani, the chairman of AGOCO, which is a 100%-owned NOC subsidiary – and one of the first to have endorsed the NOC’s new management team – wrote to Alexander Belov, the deputy managing director in charge of development at the Russian state oil company Zarubezhneft.
The letter, which Africa Intelligence has seen, is an invitation to visit AGOCO’s headquarters in Benghazi – an offer which may be taken up in the coming weeks.
According to Africa Intelligence sources, this overture to a company with very close ties to the Kremlin (its chairman Yevgeny Mourov is a former KGB officer) was discreetly encouraged by Khalifa Haftar whose forces are still receiving support from the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group.
“It was Haftar who negotiated with Dbeibah to install Bengdara as NOC Chairman, as Africa Intelligence previously revealed. Bengdara was the last Central Bank of Libya governor of the Gaddafi era and is Haftar’s main economic adviser.” The website added.
It added that this potential rapprochement between AGOCO and Russian interests is being monitored with great concern by Washington and the European Union.
“With a staff of 6,000, the company plays a major role in oil production in the east of the country: as well as operating several large fields, among them Sarir and Messla, it also manages the crude oil export terminal in Tobruk and the refineries in Sarir and Tobruk.” The website added.
Africa Intelligence said Biden administration has done its level best to boost Libya’s hydrocarbon production to help its European allies wean themselves off Russian oil and gas, and indeed keeping the NOC in one piece has been of the few issues on which the international community has been able to agree and has more or less succeeded in doing.
However, Mustafa Sanalla – who has challenged his dismissal in court – continues to be recognized by some NOC senior managers and foreign partners, and of course by the “government” of Fathi Bashagha, which was appointed by parliament to succeed Dbeibah and has set up shop in Sirte while it awaits the opportunity to install itself in Tripoli, according to the website.