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Libya strongman eases oil blockade to ‘reduce power cuts’

Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar has authorised a partial lifting of a months-long blockade of oil terminals to help ease power cuts, a military official loyal to him said.

A picture taken on June 3, 2020 shows an oil refinery in Libya's northern town of Ras Lanuf
A picture taken on June 3, 2020 shows an oil refinery in Libya’s northern town of Ras Lanuf

The reopening of oil terminals is taking place “on the instructions of… Khalifa Haftar”, General Naji al-Moghrabi, head of the Petroleum Facilities Guard, announced late Tuesday.

The reopening will, for the time being, only involve the use of stored hydrocarbons to supply electricity grids and to “maintain infrastructure, reservoirs and pipelines,” he added.

The reopening “will allow crude stored at oil terminals to supply electric and gas grids and bring relief to citizens” who are being hit by long power cuts, Moghrabi said.

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

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

The country’s oil revenues are managed by the National Oil Corporation (NOC) and the central bank, both based in the capital 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 NOC has not reacted to Moghrabi’s announcement, but has repeatedly called for the demilitarisation of oil facilities.

“Oil terminals in Libya were reopened to avoid further damage to facilities and ease tensions in the east resulting from electricity shortages,” tweeted Oliver Crowley, a co-managing partner at Libya Desk, which analyses political developments in the country.

“This does not mean that a definitive solution has been reached,” he added.

Haftar launched an offensive against Tripoli in April last year.

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

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