Key Libya oil field to go online as rivals gear up for talks

BREGA, LIBYA - JUNE 2: The Brega facilities fall under the managment of the Libyan National Oil Corporation, and maintain some of the oldest and newest equipment in the Libyan oil Industry on June 2, 2004 in Brega, Libya. With the lifting of US sanctions against Libya earlier this year, American oil companies, eager to find other avenues for oil exploration have begun negotiating with the Libyan government to return to its vast oil fields. (Photo by Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images)
BREGA, LIBYA – JUNE 2: The Brega facilities fall under the management of the Libyan National Oil Corporation and maintain some of the oldest and newest equipment in the Libyan oil Industry on June 2, 2004 in Brega, Libya. (Photo by Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images)

Libya’s state oil firm gave the green light Sunday for production to resume at a major oil field, as the UN announced ‘face-to-face” talks between the country’s rivals.

Following the end of a blockade that was imposed in February, the National Oil Corporation lifted force majeure on Al-Sharara, a field in Oubari region about 900 kilometers (550 miles) south of Tripoli, and instructed the operators Akakus to resume production.

Force majeure refers to external unforeseen elements that prevent a party from fulfilling a contract.

The NOC, in a statement, said it had struck an agreement with armed groups at the site to lift any obstacles and to ensure the safety of staff and operations.

Al-Sharara normally produces 315,000 barrels per day of Libya’s overall output of more than one million BPD.

On September 19, the NOC said it was lifting force majeure on what it deemed secure oil ports and facilities, a day after eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar said he was lifting a blockade on oil fields and ports.

Pro-Haftar groups had blockaded key fields and export terminals from January 17 to demand what they called a fair share of hydrocarbon revenues.

The blockade, which has resulted in an estimated $10 billion in lost revenue according to the NOC, has exacerbated electricity and fuel shortages in Libya.

On the political front, the UN mission in Libya announced that the country’s rivals will hold direct talks next month.

Tunisia will host “the first face-to-face meeting” of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) “in early November, following preparatory virtual consultations”, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said on Saturday.

The forum’s aim is “to generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to the holding of national elections in the shortest possible timeframe”, it said in a statement.

Libya has been wracked by conflict since the overthrow and killing of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, with rival power centers as well as a myriad of militias vying for control.

The two main factions are the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and a parliament in the eastern city of Tobruk.

Efforts to move the political process in Libya forward have been repeatedly interrupted since a deal signed in Morocco in December 2015.

Haftar, who is backed by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive on Tripoli in April 2019, but was beaten back in June by the GNA with military support from Turkey.

Hope for a solution to the crisis has risen, however, after the two main warring factions separately announced in August they would cease hostilities.

The move was followed by a series of UN-backed talks in Morocco, Egypt and Switzerland.

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