Haftar’s forces set conditions for lifting Libya’s oil blockade

Forces loyal to the Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar said they will only allow the reopening of oil fields and terminals once a mechanism has been set up to fairly distribute revenue across the country, which is split between warring factions, news wires reported.

In a statement late Saturday, Ahmed al-Mosmari, a spokesman for Haftar’s forces, called for oil revenues to flow into a bank account in a foreign country with a “clear mechanism” to distribute funds fairly among Libya’s regions. He did not name a country to host the account. He also demanded international guarantees that oil revenues would not to be used to fund “terrorists and mercenaries.” He was apparently referring to the mercenaries, more Syrians, that Ankara brought in recent months to fight on the side of the UN recognized government in Tripoli, which is backed by an array of local militias as well as Turkey, Qatar and Italy, AP reported. At the same time Haftar’s forces are backed by a patchwork of armed groups as well as foreign patrons, including the UAE, Egypt, Russia and France.

Powerful tribes in eastern Libya closed export terminals and choked off major pipelines at the start of the year. The move was aimed at pressuring their rivals in the UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, in the country’s west.

Oil, the lifeline of Libya’s economy, has long been at the center of the civil war, as rival authorities jostle for control of Africa’s largest reserves. The closures have deprived authorities of over $6.5bn. Haftar’s supporters say the Libyan Central Bank, which is based in the capital and collects oil revenue, only uses it for the benefit of the Tripoli government.

Haftar’s forces launched an offensive in April last year to try to capture Tripoli. The offensive quickly stalled, however, and in recent weeks Haftar’s forces have fallen back as the Tripoli-allied militias, with Turkish support, gained the upper hand. The Tripoli-allied forces are now threatening to retake the Mediterranean city of Sirte, which Haftar took in January. Capturing Sirte could allow Tripoli administration and its backers to gain control of Hafftar-held oil fields and facilities in the south.

 

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