The Benghazi Defense Brigades seized Libya's key oil ports from warlord Khalifa Haftar’s Operation Dignity forces, and urged the Tripoli-based "official" Government of National Accord to take control of the country's long-contested "oil crescent." The militia apparently took Ras Lanuf and other key oil terminals to press demands for displaced persons from Benghazi, long contested by Haftar’s forces and Islamist factions, to be able to safely return to their homes. "We will not stay inside the oil crescent region, once we secure it back from Haftar’s mercenaries, we will hand it over to the legitimate official authorities," the Benghazi Defense Brigades said in a statement. (Libyan Express, March 4)
Haftar, who is supported by Libya's Tobruk-based parliament, last month refused to meet GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj at a scheduled meeting in Cairo, Egypt. (Libyan Express, Feb. 14) Sarraj this week visited Moscow, where Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pressured him to establish an “inclusive national dialogue” including Haftar. (Libyan Express, March 4) Haftar himself met with Lavrov in Moscow last November. (Libya Express, Nov. 30)
In January, Haftar was hosted on a Russian aicraft carrier in the Mediterranean, leading European diplomats to launch an effort to dissuade Moscow from its apparent plans to start assisting the warlord.