Ministry result

Libyan Defense Ministry asks tribal leaders for help in oil stalemate

A powerful Libyan militia affiliated with the unity government defense ministry is asking for help from tribal leaders in the southwest to end the siege of one of the country’s largest oil fields.

The closure of the Al Sharara field by gunmen on Monday resulted in a sharp drop in production and the suspension of crude exports from two key ports.

The field, located about 900 kilometers southwest of the capital Tripoli, produces 315,000 barrels per day, or about a third of the country’s daily production in 2021. It is managed by the national company National Oil Corporation in cooperation with a consortium. French, Spanish and Norwegian companies.

“We strongly condemn the continued closure of the oil field and urge key tribes in the region to help resolve the crisis as the state budget suffers massive daily losses,” the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) militia said on Wednesday. .

The PFG came into being in 2012 when some rebel groups from the uprising against longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi joined forces to control the country’s major oil facilities. Since then, it has changed sides and alliances with different administrations and currently reports to the government of national unity formed in February, a few months after a ceasefire agreement between the main power blocs in the East and in the West and their affiliated militias.

Tribal affiliation has become deeply entrenched in Libyan society under Gaddafi, who used it to consolidate his grip on power and nip any potential military mutiny in the bud. Critics blame tribalism for the weak sense of patriotism in the country and social ills, including favoritism and inequality.

The PFG statement made it clear that Al Sharara’s gunmen were not officially affiliated with it but had worked to ensure the protection of the oil facilities.

PFG sources said The National that the men were asking for military accreditation and the construction of a new road between the land and the nearest port to the town of Al Zawiya. But the siege is also linked to the struggle for political power between rival politicians who have vicarious ties to foreign countries, they said.

Al Sharara’s siege comes amid growing political uncertainty in Libya after election officials said the presidential election scheduled for Friday is unlikely to take place.

On Wednesday, the parliament’s election commission said it was impossible to hold the vote on December 24 due to disputes over election laws and the eligibility of some candidates. The country’s High National Electoral Commission has suggested postponing the vote for a month.

Oil production has rebounded significantly after last year’s ceasefire agreement between rival political blocs in East and West and the formation in February of a government of national unity.

Libya has the largest proven reserves of oil and natural gas in Africa, which account for 98% of state revenue. The closure of the Al Sharara oil field could thwart efforts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners to boost Libyan production.

Oil prices have risen about 35% this year as economies recover from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

However, the spread of the Omicron variant put pressure on the market, with Brent crude slumping this week to nearly $ 70 a barrel.

Libya suffered one of its worst oil blockades in 2013 when a group of militias seized control of oil fields for several months in the eastern region of Cyrenaica, demanding secession from central authority within ‘a federal system.

Updated: December 23, 2021, 11:51 AM