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

Analysis: China Raises Hong Kong Rhetoric to Tiananmen Level

A front-page commentary in The People’s Daily called the current demonstrations 'chaos,' the same word Party officials used 25 years ago to describe the Tiananmen Square protests More

US Airstrikes Anger Syrian Civilians Fleeing Their Homes

Pentagon officials say they have seen no credible evidence of civilian deaths caused by US airstrikes against Islamic State militants More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid