News / Middle East

Libyan Autonomy Group Will Not Reopen Oil Ports, Challenges Tripoli

FILE - A general view shows pipelines at the Zueitina oil terminal, about 120 km west of Benghazi.
FILE - A general view shows pipelines at the Zueitina oil terminal, about 120 km west of Benghazi.
Reuters
A movement pushing for greater autonomy in eastern Libya said on Sunday it would not end the blockade of several oil-exporting ports, dashing hopes of a resolution to a three-month standoff with the Tripoli government.
 
The announcement was a blow to Prime Minister Ali Zeidan who had said he expected the blockade to end on Sunday after almost two weeks of negotiations with eastern tribal leaders to free up the vital trade.
 
Western powers worry Libya will slide into chaos as the Tripoli government struggles to rein in militias and tribesmen who helped topple Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 but kept their weapons and control parts of the OPEC-member country.
 
The port blockades, along with strikes by oil workers, civil servants, tribesmen and other protesters at oilfields across the desert country, have cut vital oil exports to 110,000 barrels per day from more than 1 million in July.
 
On Tuesday, the eastern autonomy group said it would release three ports - which had previously handled 600,000 barrels of oil exports a day - if Tripoli let it take a share of oil sales and investigated reports of corruption in the industry.
 
Ibrahim Jathran, Cyrenaica province's autonomy leader, speaks to the media in Ajdabiya December 15, 2013.Ibrahim Jathran, Cyrenaica province's autonomy leader, speaks to the media in Ajdabiya December 15, 2013.
x
Ibrahim Jathran, Cyrenaica province's autonomy leader, speaks to the media in Ajdabiya December 15, 2013.
Ibrahim Jathran, Cyrenaica province's autonomy leader, speaks to the media in Ajdabiya December 15, 2013.
“We have failed to reach a deal on these conditions with this [Tripoli] government,” autonomy leader Ibrahim Jathran told reporters at his group's home base in Ajdabiya, west of Benghazi.
 
“I therefore confirm that we will not reopen the ports for this corrupt government,” he said in brief statement.
 
Jathran said Zeidan's government had let down Libyans after the revolt that ended four decades of Gadhafi rule.
 
“We want a decent life, rights, security, an army, police and security forces which protect citizens,” said Jathran, who was a rebel commander during the NATO-backed uprising.
 
Jathran used to head a force protecting oil installations until he defected with his heavily armed men in the summer and seized the Ras Lanuf, Es-Sider and Zueitina ports to boost his campaign for more regional autonomy and a greater share of oil sales.
 
The oil blockades have dried up the main source for the dollars needed to import wheat and other basic foodstuffs. The government has warned it will not be able to pay public sector workers if oil strikes continue.
 
Oil officials said on Sunday Libya was increasing fuel imports to ease shortages gasoline stations.
 
There was no immediate comment from Tripoli on Jathran's statement. Deputy Oil Minister Omar Shakmak declined to comment when asked by reporters at a news conference on fuel imports.
 
Officials have refused to recognize the self-declared eastern government and warned that Tripoli would attack any tanker trying to load oil at seized ports.
 
Jathran selling oil?
 
Zeidan and other officials had expressed confidence that Jathran would be persuaded to lift the port blockades, which raised hopes on international markets that three months of oil strikes would end.
 
Jathran, who is in his early 30s, is popular among many in the east demanding a political system to share power and the oil wealth equally between the eastern Cyrenaica, the west and the southern Fezzan, as was the case in the pre-Gadhafi era.
 
Many also agree with Jathran that the central government has failed to provide security. In Benghazi, the east's main city, gunmen killed an army officer on Sunday, a security source said, the latest in a series of assassinations. Three soldiers were also wounded by a bomb, the source added.
 
Tribal leaders have put pressure on Jathran to end his port action because many ordinary Libyans are tired of power cuts and fuel shortages.
 
Richard Mallinson, geopolitical analyst at Energy Aspects consultancy in London, said Jathran felt confident enough to rely on his forces' strength but he risked splitting the tribesmen and militias in the east.
 
“Struggles within power bases in the east could become significant,” he said.
 
Jathran did not repeat an earlier threat to start selling crude, bypassing Tripoli. When asked later by Reuters whether he would go ahead exporting oil from seized ports, he said this was up to his self-declared government.
 
“We gave them (the government) all powers to do its job,” he said, without elaborating.
 
Zeidan has been trying to get the ports reopened but has been weakened by political conflicts with parliament and Islamist opponents.
 
The government also has to deal with a mix of different protesters. A separate set of tribal leaders has blocked Hariga port in the far east. Members of the Amazigh and Tibu, two minority groups, have also blocked gas or oil supplies in the past.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs