Libya will face a “catastrophic situation” unless foreign powers pressure eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar to lift an oilfield blockade that cut output to almost zero, the country’s internationally recognised premier said.
Since Friday, Haftar forces closed Libya’s major oil ports in a power play as European and Arab powers and the United States met with his supporters in Berlin to push him to halt a campaign to capture Tripoli.
Tripoli-based Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj told Reuters he rejects eastern demands to link reopening of oil ports to a new distribution of oil revenues among Libyans, saying such income was meant to benefit the entire country.
“The situation will be catastrophic should it stay like this,” Serraj said in Berlin.
“I hope foreign countries will follow the issue,” he said when asked if he wanted them to lean on Haftar to lift the blockade on Libya’s oil export terminals.
Much of Libya’s oil wealth is located in the east of the North African state with revenues channelled through Tripoli-based state oil firm NOC, which serves whole country and stays out of factional conflicts.
Haftar’s parallel administration repeatedly sought to export oil bypassing the NOC but was thwarted by a UN ban, diplomats say.
The NOC sends oil and gas revenues, Libya’s economic lifeline, to the Tripoli-based central bank, which mainly works with Serraj’s government though it funds some public salaries, fuel and other services in the Haftar-controlled east.
A document sent to oil traders and seen by Reuters said the NOC declared force majeure – a waiver on contractual obligations – on crude loading from the Sharara and El Feel oilfields in Libya’s south-west.
At least nine oil tankers were due to load in the coming days from ports now under force majeure, according to a local shipping source. The NOC previously declared force majeure for oil ports on the north-east coast.
RESPECT FOR CEASEFIRE
Serraj said his government would respect the summit’s decision to turn a tentative truce into a permanent ceasefire in Tripoli and open intra-Libyan talks to end conflict as part of a UN-led plan.
He again ruled out meeting Haftar. In Berlin Serraj and Haftar conferred with world leaders but not with each other.
“For me it’s clear. We will not sit down with the other side,” Serraj said adding peacemaking should not be limited to a meeting of two leaders.
Serraj and Haftar, once a senior army general under Gaddafi, last met in Abu Dhabi in February 2019 and failed to reach a power-sharing agreement, after which Haftar launched his offensive on Tripoli.