Fresh fighting within Libya’s Sirte oil basin has closed the refineries that were resuming exports after having been shuttered for several years.
The Libyan National Army, (LNA) acting under the direction of the eastern government in Tobruk had seized several ports from the Tripoli allied, Petroleum Facilities Guard, (PFG) earlier this month. Tobruk had subsequently handed control of the ports over to the internally conflicted, yet relatively unaffiliated National Oil Company, who were in the process of loading a Maltese flagged tanker when the PFG counter attacked on Sunday.
This is the first direct confrontation between the two governments since the UN backed Presidential Council in Tripoli was installed by the international community in March.
Oil is Libya’s principal natural resource, with reserves estimated by Opec at 48 billion barrels, the largest in Africa. However, since 2010 production has plummeted from 1.5 million to 200,000 barrels per day.
The fate of the ports is critical for the UN backed government, which has been struggling to establish support for itself either within the capital or wider country and is in dire need of the revenue that resuming oil exports would bring.
The United Nation’s Special Representative in Libya, Martin Kobler is currently understood to be serving as an apparently independent mediator between the formerly internationally recognized House of Representatives in Tobruk and the parliament he played a pivotal role in establishing in Tripoli.
good and frank meeting with HoR President Agila and PC member qatrani yesterday: made clear that I listen to all sides as a mediator.
— Martin Kobler (@KoblerSRSG) September 18, 2016
Protests over failing infrastructure and what is widely being seen as the imposition of the UN’s unelected government in Tripoli took place across much of Libya over the weekend. According to the website, Middle East Eye hundreds turned out in Benghazi on Friday in a rally calling for the dismissal of Kobler and head of the UN backed government, Fayez al-Seraj.
Prior to joining Tunisia Live, Simon worked as a freelance journalist. He has lived in Tunisia since 2013 and previously worked in Vietnam and Moscow.