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Libya’s Haftar promises end of oil blockade

Libya’s Haftar promises end of oil blockade

Libya’s strongman Khalifa Haftar who controls the eastern half of the country says that oil production will restart soon. That commander’s promise is ending a months-long blockade of the nation’s vital oil fields.

General Haftar said Friday that oil production would restart soon, however, the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation remained sceptical. In fact, there were several previous attempts to end the oil blockade but all of them have repeatedly broken down, Reuters has learned on Friday.

The commander, Gen Haftar, promised in a televised address, that oil would start pumping again, for the first time since January. He also said exports would resume “with conditions that ensure a fair distribution of revenue so that they not be used to support terrorist militias,” meaning the forces loyal to the GNA.

For over a year, the Haftar’s forces, backed by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, control the Libyan major oil fields and terminals.

According to the head of the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation, Mustafa Sanallah, the firm would not lift force majeure, a legal maneuver that lets a company get out of its contracts because of extraordinary events, until until Kremlin-backed mercenaries leave the oil fields and export terminals.

In his statement, Sanallah rejected what he called “secret” and “disorganized negotiations” aiming to undercut an internationally-brokered political process to reopen the fields.

“We pledge to block these useless negotiations that aim for nothing except to gain limited political profits,” Sanallah added.

General Haftar agreed to start the talks on oil blockade’s ending

The current blockade has deprived the National Oil Corporation of nearly $10 billion in revenue and led to nationwide fuel shortages. This week, General Haftar’s side agreed to enter the talks only after its campaign to take the Libyan capital by force failed in June and the Tripoli-based militias, backed by Turkey, turned the tide of war.

Powerful eastern tribes loyal to Haftar first seized control of the oil fields in January, cutting Libya’s production to a trickle and starving the country of badly needed cash, to protest what they describe as the unfair distribution of oil wealth and the diversion of revenue to Turkish-backed mercenaries fighting on behalf of the Tripoli-based government, which oversees Libya’s Central Bank.

Haftar’s announcement comes just days after his key rival, Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj of the GNA, announced he would hand over power to a new administration in October, raising fears about a possible succession struggle within the government as the UN presses ahead with political talks, set to resume soon in Geneva.