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Libyan Unity Prime Minister Visits Egypt After Oil Exports Resume

  • Edward Yeranian

FILE - Offshore oil platforms are seen at the Bouri oil field off the coast of Libya, Aug. 3, 2015.

FILE - Offshore oil platforms are seen at the Bouri oil field off the coast of Libya, Aug. 3, 2015.

Libya has resumed oil exports for the first time since military forces under the command of army General Khalifa Haftar, loyal to the parliament in Tobruk, recaptured oil installations west of Benghazi this past week.

Meanwhile, Fayez Saraj, who heads Libya’s U.N.-brokered national unity government, met in Cairo with the head of the Tobruk-based parliament, Aquelah Saleh, according to Arab and Egyptian media. The men reportedly have been trying to cobble together an agreement on a new government acceptable to rival political factions.

Parliament Speaker Saleh has repeatedly insisted on the need for a limited-size government acceptable to all parties. The Tobruk parliament refused to approve a unity government, composed of 30 ministers, earlier this year.

Ramzi Ramieh, a Libyan military analyst, told Arab media that the talks were centered on building a tightly knit government of under a dozen people.

He said Saleh and Saraj were attempting to put together a government with a three-member defense council, including Haftar, and a three-member presidential council, along with representatives of Saraj and outgoing interim Prime Minister Abdullah al Thinni.

At the same time, Haftar was promoted to the rank of field marshal by Saleh. It is not clear whether the move would affect the talks.

The move came days after Haftar’s forces captured Libya’s strategic oil-export installations of Ras Lanouf, Sidra, Zoueitina and Brega.

'Promising development'

The oil exports resumed, according to the Arab daily Al Hayat, with a Maltese-flagged tanker leaving the port of Zoueitina, with cargo bound for China.

U.S. Libya envoy Jonathan Winer called the shipment a “promising development” in a tweet, saying, “Well-placed Libyans say the military has withdrawn from the oil terminals,” leaving them in the hands of the country’s National Oil Company.

The U.N. special envoy for Libya, Martin Kobler, told journalists in Misrata late Thursday that he considered the army presence in the oil installations a problem.

“It is very important to have ... the Libyan national army out of the oil fields and out of the oil terminals," he said. "The oil belongs to all Libyans, and it is the National Oil Company which has the management of oil in the country.”

Kobler added that he welcomed the statement from the head of the National Oil Company, Mustapha Sanullah, saying that he was acting “under the authority of the presidency council.”

“It is good to lift oil exports in Libya," he said. "However, it is very important that the exports are done legally.”

In a related development, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Choukri said in a statement from New York, where he was attending the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly, that “Egypt supports the legitimacy and actions of the Libyan army to maintain security in the country.”