US Secretary of State asked by lobbyists to protect Libya’s NOC amid Russian influence

Africa Intelligence website reported that the US firm “Mercury Public Affairs” had been busy lobbying Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in Washington on behalf of the Chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC), Farhat Bengdara.

According to the report, the lobbying is based on fears of the continuous Russian expansion. Russia’s military presence in eastern Libya has played a strong role in getting Russian oil firms interested in the country. Troops from the Russian paramilitary force Africa Corps are deployed in military bases controlled by Haftar. According to a recent estimate by US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller, 1,800 Moscow-affiliated fighters are thought to be present in Libya.

In a letter sent to Blinken in June, Mercury called on him to “protect the independence of the NOC and its Chairman”, whose “leadership may be in jeopardy” as he “faces continuing pressures”, both internal and external.

The US lobbying firm backs up this claim by stressing the importance of Bengdara’s position for the country’s stability, given that he works both with Abdul Hamid Dbeibah’s Government of National Unity (GNU) in the west and the authorities in the east, dominated by Khalifa Haftar.

The firm, which signed a consultancy contract with the NOC in February 2023, was striving to reassure Washington that the Chairman of NOC was on their side.

The firm’s lobbying came on the heels of announcements by Osama Hamad’s parallel government in eastern Libya that it had started talks with the Russian oil group “Tatneft” to build a refinery in the north-east of the country.

In the meantime, the NOC insisted that it was not involved in this initiative and said it was not planning on building a second refinery on top of the one launched in southern Libya by its subsidiary Zallaf Oil and Gas, which had been operated in partnership with US oil company Honeywell.


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