East Libya FM Demands 'Fair Distribution' to End Oil Closure
Foreign Minister of the interim government in eastern Libya, Abdelhadi Lahouij, said Saturday the shutdown of vital oil facilities in the country would come to an end “when Libyans are guaranteed of the fair distribution of their resources.”
The closures came about when powerful tribal groups loyal to Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar in January seized several large export terminals along Libya’s eastern coast, as well as southern oil fields.
“These resources are protected by our government, and by its army," Lahouij told The Associated Press.
“We pay the money for the police to guard the oil facilities, and protect the foreigners who are working in the oil facilities.”
Lahouij spoke to the AP on Friday while on a trip to Russia lasting several days. He attended a conference on the Middle East hosted by the Moscow-based think tank the Valdai Discussion Club.
Haftar’s forces launched an offensive in April to capture Libya’s capital, Tripoli, to cleanse it of militias loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA).
The Tripoli government controls only a shrinking corner of the country’s west. But it enjoys a different advantage: its control over Libya’s Central Bank, which holds the country’s oil revenue.
The opaque finances of the bank has drawn sharp criticism. The LNA accuse the bank of diverting oil assets to pay Syrian mercenaries to defend the capital.
Libya’s National Oil Corporation, which dominates Libya’s critical oil industry and is based in Tripoli, has also called repeatedly for increased transparency.
Lahouij accused the Tripoli-based government of using oil resources to pay for “mercenaries and foreign pilots” who fight on its side against LNA forces.
Turkey, which backs the GNA, has sent hundreds of Syrian fighters including militants affiliated with groups such as al-Qaeda and the ISIS to fight against the LNA.
“When we are guaranteed a fair distribution of resources, this problem will come an end and the oil flow will return as it was,” he said.
The National Oil Corporation said losses from the oil closures have reached more than $1.85 billion as of Thursday. The daily oil production has since the closure fallen to 122,424 barrels a day from about 1.2 million.
Libya has the ninth largest known oil reserves in the world and the biggest oil reserves in Africa.