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.


Algerian parliament vote ‘before year’s end’

Algerians walk across from the People's National Assembly (parliament) building during a voting session on constitutional reforms in the capital Algiers, on September 10, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 22 September 2020

Algerian parliament vote ‘before year’s end’

  • The term of the widely discredited current lower house, elected in 2017, was originally set to end in May 2022

ALGIERS: The Algerian president says early legislative elections aimed at opening parliament to civil society will be held before the end of the year to give a new face to a parliament long dominated by a single party.

Abdelmadjid Tebboune did not set a date but indicated on Sunday evening that the parliamentary voting would follow a national referendum on a constitutional revision to be held Nov. 1, a highly symbolic date marking the start of this North African nation’s seven-year war with France for independence that began Nov. 1, 1954.
The next National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, which “will be made up of lawmakers from universities, civil society, will serve as the base of the ‘New Algeria,’” Tebboune said in an interview with two Algerian newspapers.
“If the people want change, it is time to work to not remain in the ambiguity that prevailed earlier.”
Tebboune was referring to the corruption that highlighted the 20 years of power of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, forced to resign in April 2019 amid growing peaceful street protests and a push from the then-Army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, who died in December.

If the people want change, it is time to work to not remain in the ambiguity that prevailed earlier.

Abdelmadjid Tebboune, President of Algeria

Tebboune was elected promising change, including a new parliament, though the vote was largely boycotted by the protest movement, the Hirak.
The term of the widely discredited current lower house, elected in 2017, was originally set to end in May 2022.
A new electoral law foreseen in the constitutional revision “will put in place safeguards to keep dirty money out of politics,” the president said, adding that with the constitutional revision Algeria would “truly be at the service of the citizen and not at the service of a group exercising domination.”
Numerous business leaders and two prime ministers have been jailed on corruption charges since the downfall of Bouteflika. During a trial last week, lawmaker Baha Eddine Tliba admitted to paying the former chief of the powerful FLN party Djamel Ould Abbas, to be placed on his list of candidates to ensure him a parliamentary seat.