Haftar agrees to lift Libya oil blockade with conditions

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An armed National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter patrols inside the Libyan Oil Refining Company (LERCO) in Ras Lanuf, about 660 km (410 miles) west of Tripoli, November 5, 2011. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal
An armed National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter patrols inside the Libyan Oil Refining Company (LERCO) in Ras Lanuf, about 660 km (410 miles) west of Tripoli, November 5, 2011. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar announced Friday a conditional lifting of a months-long blockade on oilfields and ports by his forces.

“We have decided to resume oil production and export on condition of a fair distribution of revenues” and guarantee they “will not be used to support terrorism”, he said on television.

Pro-Haftar groups supported by the Petroleum Facilities Guard blockaded key oilfields and export terminals on January 17 to demand what they called a fair share of hydrocarbon revenues.

The blockade, which has resulted in more than $9.8 billion in lost revenue, according to National Petroleum Company (NOC), has exacerbated electricity and fuel shortages in the country.

Dressed in his military uniform, Haftar said the command of his forces had “put aside all military and political considerations” to respond to the “deterioration of living conditions” in Libya, which has Africa’s largest oil reserves.

The announcement comes after hundreds of Libyans protested last week in the eastern city of Benghazi, one of Haftar’s strongholds, and other cities over corruption, power cuts and shortages in petrol and cash.

Protesting peacefully at first, protesters on Sunday set fire to the headquarters of the parallel eastern government in Benghazi and attacked the police station in Al-Marj.

Police officers fired live ammunition to disperse them in Al-Marj, leaving at least one dead and several wounded, according to witnesses and the UN mission in Libya.

Libya has been in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

The country’s oil revenues are managed by the NOC and the central bank, both based in Tripoli, which is also the seat of Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

Haftar runs a rival administration based in the country’s east.

The strongman — who has the backing of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia — launched an offensive against Tripoli in April last year.

After 14 months of fierce fighting, pro-GNA forces backed by Turkey expelled his troops from much of western Libya and pushed them to Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s rich oil fields and export terminals.

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