Libyan Oil Exports Blocked, Washington Calls For Their Immediate Resumption

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Libyan Oil Exports Blocked, Washington Calls For Their Immediate Resumption

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On January 21st, the US called for an immediate resumption of oil operations in Libya, as oil exports from the country have been blocked since January 17th.

The US embassy issued a statement calling for the immediate unblocking of the oil ports, in order to not cause any more suffering for the Libyan people.

Prior to the statement, the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) issued a statement outlining what was happening.

According to it, the oil ports of Zouitina, Harika, Brega, Sidra and Ras Lanuf were blocked and an order was given to suspend exports from those ports.

The port in Benghazi is still open, and a tanker is being unloaded, with another tanker from Zawiya refinery had arrived on January 20th.

As of January 19th, the Hamada pumping station, as well as production from the entire Hamada oil field was also stopped.

Production from the Sharara and Elephant oil fields was blocked. This, in turn, would cause shortages when the stocks run low and there will be a loss of power.

“The crude oil production rates have been reduced as much as possible to avoid a complete cessation of production. It should be noted that the closing of operations of the fields will cause losses in the production of crude oil of 1.2 million barrels per day, and financial losses estimated at about $77 million per day.”

The blockage was blamed on “pro-Haftar” parties, powerful tribal groups loyal to Haftar, whose forces control eastern Libya and much of the south, seized several large export terminals. They were captured along the eastern coast as well as southern oil fields in a challenge to the UN-assigned Government of National Accord (GNA), which collects revenues from oil production.

The NOC condemned the unrest, describing oil as the “lifeblood of the Libyan economy” and the country’s only source of revenue.

“Oil facilities belong to the Libyan people and should not be used as a card for political bargaining,” the chairman of the corporation, Mustafa Sanalla, said.

In a press briefing on January 18th, spokesperson of the Libyan National Army Brigadier General Ahmad al-Mesmari said that the LNA hadn’t blocked the oil ports and fields, but rather it was the people, who were fed up with the GNA and its hired militants.

“The Libyan people are the ones who shut down oil ports and fields and are preventing oil exports,” said spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari, adding that it sent a “message of rejection” to militia groups defending Tripoli.

It is, however, likely that the LNA assisted in coordinating the block, in order to pressure the foreign powers benefitting from the oil revenues from Libya. Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces wish to consolidate power for the democratically-elected House of Representatives and purge militants from the country. While many of those same militants are employed by the GNA in an attempt to enforce its rule.

Potentially in connection with the blocking of the oil facilities, the CIA-linked Phoenix Air Group GIII N197PA flew from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to Libya.

The UN Security Council, as well as NATO are calling a ceasefire to be established, coordinated between the LNA and GNA.

On the ground, LNA air raids during the night struck GNA positions on January 20th.

Prior to that the GNA targeted LNA groups near the Takbali camp.

There is active shelling and air raids taking place from both sides, with the LNA reportedly having the upper hand, but still making little progress in capturing Tripoli.

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