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3 Libyan Oil Ports Resume Operations as Deal Starts to Kick In

FILE - A general view of pipelines at the Zueitina oil terminal, in Zueitina, west of Benghazi, Libya, April 7, 2014.
FILE - A general view of pipelines at the Zueitina oil terminal, in Zueitina, west of Benghazi, Libya, April 7, 2014.

Work has resumed at three of Libya's five oil port facilities after an eight-month hiatus. However, two ports have yet to resume work, including Libya's largest, the al-Sharara oil field.

Libyan media reported sporadic militia clashes in the capital, Tripoli, but the resumption of oil production at three of the country's main oil ports overshadowed the security situation, amid public anguish over lengthy power cuts and problems with other services.

Oil facilities protection forces chief General Naji Maghrebi told Arab media that oil pumping has resumed at Libya's Zueitina, Brega and Hreiqa ports, while facilities at two other ports at Sidra and Ras Lanouf remain offline, along with the al-Sharara oil fields, which are controlled by eastern military commander General Khalifa Haftar's military forces.

Resumption of oil production was part of a deal between General Haftar and Ahmed Maitiq, deputy prime minister of the rival Tripoli government.

Fayez Sarraj, who heads the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, told the U.N. General Assembly Thursday it was imperative to reopen Libya's port facilities.

He said that all militias should return to their countries, and Libya's seaports and oil fields, which he claims were closed due to foreign pressure, must reopen. Their closure, he added, caused financial losses estimated at $9 billion and serious damage to infrastructure.

Libyan media reported that engineers and other oil production workers are now being allowed to resume work, and that flights between Tripoli's Maitiga Airport and the Haftar-controlled city of Sirte now have resumed.

Libyan analyst Aya Burweila, visiting lecturer at the Hellenic National Defense College, told VOA the resumption of oil pumping "is a very positive development that will help tackle the electricity crisis and provide immediate relief for the suffering of [Libyan] citizens."

Development and civilian infrastructure projects have long been stalled due to what she calls the abuse and unwillingness of the Tripoli government to subject itself to audits and agree to a fair distribution of oil revenues.

Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, told VOA the oil resumption deal between rival Libyan governments was a "parallel political effort between Libya's power centers," alongside the U.S. effort to jumpstart political talks in Morocco between the [Islamist] head of Tripoli's ruling council, Khaled Mishri, and eastern Libya-based parliament speaker Aquilah Salah.

The oil production resumption deal between Haftar and Maitiq, he said, comes amid uncertainty over who controls the levers of power in Tripoli, and efforts by both men to maintain their current positions in a future political shuffle.