Libyan commander agrees to lift oil blockade: US embassy

Above, Libya’s National Oil Company in the northern town of Ras Lanuf. Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa and the ninth-biggest known reserves in the world. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 13 September 2020

Libyan commander agrees to lift oil blockade: US embassy

  • Powerful tribes in eastern Libya loyal to Haftar have kept export terminals closed and choked off major pipelines since the start of the year

CAIRO: The US Embassy in Libya said Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar agreed to reopen key oil fields and terminals no later than Saturday, a move that could advance talks between the country’s warring sides closer to a political settlement to the yearslong conflict.
Powerful tribes in eastern Libya loyal to Haftar have kept export terminals closed and choked off major pipelines since the start of the year. That move aimed to put pressure on their rivals in the UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, in the country’s west.
Oil-rich Libya was plunged into disorder when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who was later killed. The county has since split between rival east- and west-based administrations, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.
The US Embassy statement said Haftar’s self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces conveyed to the US government “the personal commitment of General Haftar to allow the full reopening of the energy sector no later than Sept. 12.”
By Saturday evening, it was not immediately clear whether the blockade had been lifted. There was no immediate comment from the LAAF, and Haftar’s spokesman did not immediately answer phone calls seeking comment.
The US Embassy said it was encouraged by “an apparent sovereign Libyan agreement” to enable Libya’s National Oil Corporation to resume its “vital and apolitical work.”
The US supports “a financial model that would constitute a credible guarantee that oil and gas revenues would be managed transparently and preserved for the benefit of the Libyan people,” the embassy said, adding: “Credible safeguards will enable all Libyans to have confidence that revenues are not misappropriated.” It did not elaborate.
Haftar in July called for oil revenues to flow into a bank account in a foreign country with a “clear mechanism” to distribute funds fairly among Libya’s regions.
The embassy said it welcomed “what appears to be a Libyan consensus that it is time to reopen the energy sector.” The statement said Libyans are suffering through an acute electricity crisis, rooted in the forced shutdown of oil and gas production.
Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa and the ninth-biggest known reserves in the world.
The US statement came two days after delegates from Libya’s rival camps, under heavy international pressure, came to a preliminary political agreement. It aims to guide the country toward elections and demilitarize the contested city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s major oil fields and export terminals and which is controlled by Haftar. It also came amid protests over dire living conditions across the divided country.
Haftar’s camp has accused the Tripoli-based administration of diverting oil revenues to provide salaries and supplies for Turkish-backed mercenaries fending off Haftar’s campaign to capture the capital.
The eight-month oil blockade has deprived the Tripoli-based oil company of nearly $10 billion in revenue and put the UN-supported government under enormous financial strain.
Haftar’s forces launched an offensive in April last year to try to capture Tripoli. But the offensive quickly stalled, and in recent weeks his forces have fallen back as the Tripoli-allied militias, with Turkish support, gained the upper hand.
Fighting has mostly died down in recent weeks, but both sides were preparing for a possible battle over Sirte. Egypt, which backs Haftar, has threatened to send troops into Libya if Turkey-backed forces attacked the strategic city.


Palestinian official Erekat undergoes bronchostomy

Updated 21 October 2020

Palestinian official Erekat undergoes bronchostomy

  • Erekat has been one of the Palestinians’ most recognizable faces over the past several decades, serving as a senior negotiator in talks with Israel
  • He was also a senior adviser to late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the current president

JERUSALEM: A doctor treating Palestinian official Saeb Erekat for COVID-19 performed a bronchostomy on Wednesday to examine the condition of his respiratory system, his daughter said.
Salam Erekat said on Twitter that her father remained intubated and connected to an ECMO machine, which does the work of the lungs by transferring oxygen into blood.
She said it would take several days to get the results. “Hopefully things will take a better way. Pray for my father,” said Salam Erekat, who herself is a physician.
Erekat, 65, was transferred Sunday from the West Bank to Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center.
The hospital has said he is in critical but stable condition, and that its medical team is consulting with experts around the world to deal with the case. It says Erekat’s case is especially complicated given his history of health issues, including a lung transplant in 2017.
Erekat, 65, has been one of the Palestinians’ most recognizable faces over the past several decades, serving as a senior negotiator in talks with Israel and making frequent media appearances. He was also a senior adviser to late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and current President Mahmoud Abbas.