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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.