Libya’s warlord General Khalifa Haftar has agreed to end an eight-month blockade of the North African country’s oil operations and exports by his renegade Libyan National Army (LNA), the US Embassy said.
Haftar gave his “personal commitment” to “allow the full reopening of the energy sector”, a statement from embassy in the capital Tripoli said.
Although Haftar had given his assurances to lift the blockade by 12 September, this has not happened yet.
State-run National Oil Corporation (NOC) has yet to confirm that exports would soon resume from the export terminals, which LNA choked off in January after an offensive by the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli.
The offensive is bogged down near the city of Sirte, gateway to Libya’s oil production and facilities in eastern regions where Haftar holds sway.
Attempts to restart production and exports come amid a US-led led diplomatic push to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The US mission said that “in recent discussions with a broad range of Libyan leaders” it had backed “a financial model that would constitute a credible guarantee that oil and gas revenues would be managed transparently”.
“The embassy welcomes what appears to be a Libyan consensus that it is time to reopen the energy sector.’’
The US government “is encouraged by an apparent sovereign Libyan agreement to enable the National Oil Corporation to resume its vital and apolitical work,” statement said.
Libya was pumping 1.2 million barrels a day last year though output has plummeted to 80,000 bpd since Haftar’s forces imposed the blockade and prevented operations at oilfields in January.
Haftar, who controls most of eastern Libya, is trying to unseat the GNA administration led Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj who has his power base in the west of the vast North African country.
Any quick resumption of Libyan exports is bound to complicate Opec’s task in propping up the faltering oil market at a time of weak demand that has led to a global supply glut.
Haftar says the blockade will end only when there is agreement on a fair distribution of oil revenues between western and eastern Libya.
The United Nations-recognised government in Tripoli declared a ceasefire across the country last month while calling for demilitarising the contested strategic city of Sirte.
The truce announcement as welcomed by Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has backed Haftar and threatened to deploy troops across the border into Libya. Haftar has yet to accept the ceasefire aimed at returning calm to Libya which been mired in strife since the 2011 ousting of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.