Libya to resume oil production at largest field amid talks

By: |
October 11, 2020 5:49 PM

The National Oil Corporation said it has lifted the force majeure that was imposed at the southwestern Sharara oil field after it reached an honor agreement with forces loyal to military commander Khalifa Hifter to end all obstructions at the field.

Fighting has died down in recent months amid international pressure on both sides to avert an attack on the strategic city of Sirte.

Libya’s national oil company announced Sunday it is resuming production at the country’s largest oil field as rival officials from eastern and western Libya began peace talks, part of preliminary negotiations ahead of a UN-brokered dialogue set to take place next month.

The National Oil Corporation said it has lifted the force majeure that was imposed at the southwestern Sharara oil field after it reached an honor agreement with forces loyal to military commander Khalifa Hifter to end all obstructions at the field.

The corporation’s announcement comes three weeks after Hifter, who was behind a year-long military attempt to capture the capital, Tripoli, announced an end to a blockade of the nation’s vital oil fields.

The September 18 breakthrough was the result of a so-called Libyan-Libyan dialogue led by Ahmed Matiq, the rival Tripoli government’s deputy prime minister, seeking to create a new mechanism to distribute the country’s petrodollars more equitably.

Libya’s prized, light crude has long featured in the North African country’s civil war with rival militias and foreign powers jostling for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves.

Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed popular uprising in 2011 toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. The country has since split between rival administrations based in the capital Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi, each backed by armed groups and rival foreign governments.

Meanwhile, representatives of the Benghazi-based House of Representatives and Tripoli-based High Council of State started on Sunday three-day-long U.N.-facilitated talks in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, the U.N. support mission in Libya said.

The mission said the delegations are expected to discuss legal and constitutional options which may be put forward to the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum.” The first face-to-face meeting of the political forum are slated to take place in Tunisia in November, following preparatory virtual meetings starting Oct. 26, the mission said.

The forum aims to generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to the holding of national elections in the shortest possible timeframe, the UN mission said. Prior to the Tunisia talks, the rivals are to start face-to-face military negotiations in Geneva on Oct. 19.

The rival sides held security talks late September that resulted in preliminary agreements to exchange prisoners and open up air and land transit across the country’s divided territory.

Hifter’s forces launched an offensive in April 2019 to try and capture Tripoli, but his campaign collapsed within two months when the Tripoli-allied militias, with Turkish support, gained the upper hand, driving his forces from the outskirts of the city and other western towns.

Fighting has died down in recent months amid international pressure on both sides to avert an attack on the strategic city of Sirte.

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