News / Middle East

Libya's Standoff with Eastern Oil Protesters Escalates

(File) The Libyan Oil Refining Company (LERCO) in Ras Lanuf, about 660 km (410 miles) west of Tripoli.(File) The Libyan Oil Refining Company (LERCO) in Ras Lanuf, about 660 km (410 miles) west of Tripoli.
x
(File) The Libyan Oil Refining Company (LERCO) in Ras Lanuf, about 660 km (410 miles) west of Tripoli.
(File) The Libyan Oil Refining Company (LERCO) in Ras Lanuf, about 660 km (410 miles) west of Tripoli.
Reuters
Libya's standoff with armed protesters blockading its eastern oil terminals escalated on Tuesday after the armed forces warned shippers against loading crude at the seized ports that have been out of government control for months.
 
Libya's navy said it opened fire on Sunday after a Maltese flagged oil tanker tried to approach Es Sider, one of the eastern ports seized by armed protesters demanding more autonomy from Tripoli's central government
 
“If a ship docks in one of the closed ports, and it does not leave the port again, then we will destroy it,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Said Abdul Razig al-Shbahi. “We have clear instructions. This is sovereignty of the state, even the international law will be in our side.”
 
Negotiations to end the blockade have failed, with eastern federalist protesters threatening to ship oil independently. On  Tuesday they said they would guarantee security for vessels docking at ports under their control.
 
Libya's confrontation over oil is one of challenges facing its fragile government two years after Moammer Gadhafi's fall. Former rebels, militias and tribesman resort to force to make political demands of a state still struggling with a transition to democracy.
 
Tripoli's major threat remains in the east of the country, where armed protesters linked to the self-proclaimed Cyrenaica regional government have taken over three key ports: Ras Lanuf, Es Sider and Zueitina, which previously accounted for 600,000 bpd in crude exports.
 
Responding to government warnings, Cyrenaica federalists claimed they would ensure the safety of tankers using the major oil export terminal of Es Sider, according to a letter circulated to oil traders on Tuesday.
 
Security escort
 
The letter, under the header of their self-declared government's newly established Libya Oil and Gas Corp, said that “our security escort will begin upon entry into Libyan territorial waters until exit of Libyan territorial waters.”
 
Officials of the self-declared government were not immediately available for comment.
 
The risks of an escalation were clear over the weekend when the Libyan navy said it opened fire on a vessel trying to reach Es Sider, before the tanker, Baku, turned back to Malta.
 
The owner of the tanker said on Tuesday the vessel had been in international waters, and denied it was involved in trying to smuggle crude oil.
 
The owner, Palmali, said a Libyan naval vessel fired warning shots even after it provided written confirmation to the Libyan National Oil Company (NOC) that it was no longer sailing to Es Sider.
 
“The Libyan naval vessel continued to circle our vessel threateningly and even fired two shots,” it said. “These unfortunate incidents occurred in international waters with manifest and total disrespect by the Libyan authorities for the rule of international order.”
 
Attempts by tribal leaders to mediate over the eastern blockade have failed, forcing the government to warn that public sector salaries are at risk as oil revenues are the main source for the OPEC country's budget.
 
Negotiations, though, worked elsewhere: Output at Libya's El-Sharara oilfield rose more on Tuesday to over two thirds of full capacity and a pipeline shipping condensate - very light crude - to a western port reopened, marking progress in government efforts to rebuild vital exports.
 
Tribesmen protest
 
Talks ended a protest by tribesmen at El Sharara over the weekend with production there climbing to 277,000 bpd on Tuesday and expected to reach full capacity of 340,000 bpd by Wednesday, said a spokesman for the National Oil Corp.
 
“I think if we keep up at this level we will reach capacity by tomorrow,” the spokesman, Mohamed al-Harari, said.
 
The reopening of the El Sharara field in southern Libya, one of Libya's largest, and of the Wafa pipeline feeding Mellitah port are good news after the eastern protests slashed its national output since July.
 
El Sharara supplies crude to the western Zawiya export terminal and feeds the 120,000-bpd Zawiya refinery.
 
Protesters, who had blockaded the El Sharara field for two months, had been calling for the establishment of a local council and the granting of national identity cards for tribesmen from the Tuareg minority.
 
The pipeline carrying condensates from Wafa oilfield to Mellitah port, jointly operated by Italy's ENI in the west, has also been reopened after protesters briefly blocked the line, with output now at around 30,000 bpd, the NOC said.
 
But the resumption of the southern El Sharara field was an important win for the government, and could lift Libya's total output to 600,000 barrels a day. A wave of protests and strikes cut the OPEC member country's total output to 250,000 bpd from 1.4 million in the summer.

You May Like

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs