No Quick End to Libya Strife After Haftar Derides Cease-Fire

Prospects for an imminent end to Libya’s civil war or resumption of oil exports dimmed after forces loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar scoffed at the United Nations-backed government’s announcement of a cease-fire.

Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army described the initiative announced Friday by the government in Tripoli as “media marketing,” though stopped short of rejecting it.

The LNA is ready to defend Sirte, a central city that’s the gateway to the OPEC member’s key oil assets, spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said Sunday in a televised address. Intelligence received by Haftar suggests the Tripoli government still intends to “attack our forces in the regions of Sirte and Jufra,” he said.

Friday’s cease-fire announcement by the Tripoli government, and a reciprocal call from the head of the eastern-based parliament, followed UN-mediated talks seeking to end almost a decade of conflict in the North African nation.

Libya holds Africa’s largest crude reserves, but its output and exports have dwindled amid fighting and a blockade of oil ports by Haftar supporters. The country pumped just 100,000 barrels a day in July, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, a fraction of the 1.6 million it produced before the 2011 uprising that ousted former leader Muammar al-Qaddafi.

The LNA, which has been aided by Russian mercenaries, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, fell back to Sirte after a failed offensive to capture Tripoli, the capital and home to the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord. The two sides have been poised at Sirte for a potentially decisive battle for control of the nation.

The blockade on oil facilities since January has deprived Libya of more than $8 billion in revenue, according to the National Oil Corp., which has its headquarters in Tripoli.

People’s living conditions have deteriorated as a result, and protesters marched in the capital on Sunday to voice anger about collapsing public services and power cuts. One person was injured in the demonstration, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. The minister blamed the violence on “infiltrators” and said they aimed to “create a crisis and new chaos in the nation.”

Libya tanker

The blockade has deprived electricity stations of fuel and caused outages, especially in the east, Haftar’s base. The LNA and allied oil guards last week said they would allow limited fuel shipments from ports to restock power stations. The tanker Valle Di Siviglia arrived early on Monday at the eastern oil port of Brega to load 30,000 tons of condensates, the NOC said.

“The oil shutdown has resulted in the suffering of citizens, affected all walks of life,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in a statement. “We therefore renew our call to end the illegal blockade of our facilitates, in order to be able to do our job and cover the domestic need for fuel.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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