UN Libya mission ‘deeply concerned’ over disruption in oil production, urges restraint

The oil-rich North African state has been in turmoil since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that overthrew and killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi. (File/AFP)
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Updated 18 January 2020

UN Libya mission ‘deeply concerned’ over disruption in oil production, urges restraint

  • The NOC issued a statement saying it “strongly condemns calls to blockade oil ports ahead of the Berlin Conference on Sunday”
  • Tribes close to eastern Libya-based military strongman Khalifa Haftar had called for a blockade of coastal oil export terminals

TRIPOLI: The United Nations mission in Libya said on Saturday it was deeply concerned over efforts to disrupt oil production in the country and urged all sides to exercise restraint.
“This move would have devastating consequences first and foremost for the Libyan people who depend on the free flow of oil for their well-being,” the mission said.

Libya’s National Oil Company warned Friday against threats to block oil exports, the war-torn country’s main income source, two days before a Berlin conference aimed at relaunching a peace process.
Tribes close to eastern Libya-based military strongman Khalifa Haftar had called for a blockade of coastal oil export terminals to protest a Turkish intervention against Haftar in the country’s grinding conflict.
The NOC later issued a statement saying it “strongly condemns calls to blockade oil ports ahead of the Berlin Conference on Sunday.”
Turkey has backed the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord as it faces an offensive by Haftar’s forces to seize the capital from what he calls “terrorists” supporting the GNA.
After months of combat, which has killed more than 2,000 people, a cease-fire came into effect Sunday backed by both Ankara and Moscow, which is accused of supporting Haftar.
However, after Turkey deployed troops to support the United Nations-recognized GNA, tribes close to Haftar threatened to close down the “oil crescent” — a string of export hubs along Libya’s northeastern coast under Haftar’s control since 2016.
His troops have also mobilized to block any counter-attack on the oil crescent, the conduit for the majority of Libya’s crude exports.
“The closure of the fields and the terminals is purely a popular decision. It is the people who decided this,” spokesman for pro-Haftar forces Ahmad Al-Mismari told Al-Hadath television late Friday.
The tribes also called for the “immediate” closure of the Mellitah, Brega and Misrata pipelines.
The head of the eastern Zouaya tribe told AFP that blocking exports would “dry up the sources of funding for terrorism via oil revenues.”
NOC chairman Moustafa Sanalla said the oil and gas sector is “vital” for the Libyan economy, as it is the “single source of income for the Libyan people.”
“The oil and the oil facilities belong to the Libyan people. They are not cards to be played to solve political matters,” he added.
“Shutting down oil exports and production will have far-reaching and predictable consequences.”
The oil-rich North African state has been in turmoil since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that overthrew and killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Its oil sector, which brings in almost all of the state’s revenues, has frequently been the target of attacks.
Sanalla said the consequences of exports and production being shut down for an extended period could be devastating.
“We face collapse of the exchange rate, a huge and unsustainable increase in the national deficit, the departure of foreign contractors, and the loss of future production, which may take years to restore,” he said.
“This is like setting fire to your own house.”


Israeli PM Netanyahu’s trial to start March 17: ministry

Updated 10 min 35 sec ago

Israeli PM Netanyahu’s trial to start March 17: ministry

  • The announcement comes as Netanyahu's campaigns ahead of March 2 elections

JERUSALEM: The trial of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges will open on March 17, the justice ministry said Tuesday.
It said the indictment would be read by judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman in the presence of Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
The announcement comes as the 70-year-old prime minister campaigns ahead of March 2 elections, Israel’s third in less than a year, after two previous polls resulted in a deadlock between Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz.
Gantz had refused after September elections to join a unity government led by Netanyahu, saying he must first settle his differences with the judiciary before taking power.
Netanyahu was charged in the autumn last year with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit formally presented the charge sheet to the Jerusalem district court on January 28 after Netanyahu had withdrawn a request seeking parliamentary immunity lodged earlier that month.
His opponents had already mustered a majority in the legislature to deny him immunity.
Netanyahu is Israel’s only head of government to have been indicted during his term in office.
Under Israeli law, a sitting prime minister is only required to step down once convicted of an offense and after all avenues of appeal have been exhausted.
Netanyahu denies the charges and says he is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.