Turkey Discussing Oil and Gas Exploration in Libya

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Turkey is in talks over oil and gas exploration in Libya, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration seeks business opportunities in the conflict-ridden North African country.

Turkey and Libya’s United Nations-recognized government, which controls the capital Tripoli and other parts of the west, are discussing onshore and offshore energy blocks, according to a Turkish energy official, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

Turkish officials also held talks with Libya’s National Oil Corp. about power generation and pipeline operations, the person said. The official did not specify whether the NOC was included in negotiations about energy exploration.

The NOC, also based in Tripoli, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

An energy deal would strengthen Turkey’s ties with the Government of National Accord, which fended off a campaign by eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar to capture Tripoli and wrest full control of the OPEC member earlier this year. Ankara sent troops and military advisers to Libya in January, which proved crucial in turning the tide against Haftar.

Turkey has raised tensions with Greece, Cyprus and the rest of the European Union in recent months by asserting its maritime rights in the Eastern Mediterranean and exploring for gas. Late last year Ankara won the GNA’s backing for a controversial new sea boundary between Turkey and Libya that covers waters contested by others, including Greece.

Libya, home to Africa’s largest crude oil reserves, has been wracked by war and lawlessness since former dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi was toppled in 2011. The country is divided between the GNA and Haftar’s Libyan National Army, which is backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

The war has devastated Libya’s oil industry. It produced just 80,000 barrels of crude a day in August, a fraction of the 1.6 million it was pumping a decade ago.

Western Libya is home to the country’s biggest oil field, Sharara. Most eastern deposits are controlled by Haftar or his allies.

Turkey Discussing Oil and Gas Exploration in Libya

Turkey has deep historical ties to Libya, which the Turks ruled as part of the former Ottoman Empire until 1912.

The GNA said its prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, visited Turkey earlier this month to discuss economic and security cooperation with Erdogan.

The two sides discussed “the return of Turkish companies to complete halted infrastructure projects in Libya and contribute to new projects,” according to a GNA statement on Sept. 6.

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