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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora