UN, US urge end to Libya oil blockade

Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC). (Photo: Jordan News)
TRIPOLI — The UN and Washington's ambassador to Libya on Monday urged an armed group to lift a blockade at two major oil fields amid a mounting political crisis.اضافة اعلان

Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) said Sunday that production was suspended at the vast Al-Sharara and Al-Fil fields after gunmen cut off their pipelines.

Stephanie Williams, UN chief Antonio Guterres's special adviser on the North African nation, said she was following the reports "with concern".

"Blocking oil production deprives all Libyans from their major source of revenue," Williams wrote on Twitter. "The oil blockade should be lifted".

US Ambassador Richard Norland also called for the blockade to "be lifted immediately".

Oil revenues are vital to the war-torn country, which sits on Africa's largest known reserves. 

The NOC said the latest blockade would slash state revenues by around $35 million a day.

The NOC had on Sunday declared force majeure, a legal move allowing parties to free themselves from contractual obligations when factors such as fighting or natural disasters make meeting them impossible.

Libya has undergone a decade of chaos since the 2011 uprising that overthrew and killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Oil installations have often been attacked or blockaded by armed groups seeking to extract concessions such as jobs or a better share of revenues.

The latest blockade comes as crude prices edge closer to an all-time high on supply worries after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with Brent North Sea crude nearing $140 per barrel on Monday.

It also comes days after the eastern-based parliament installed a new prime minister, former interior minister Fathi Bashagha, a rival to the unity government led by Abdulhamid Dbeibah in the capital Tripoli in the west.

Dbeibah, who has vowed only to hand power to an elected government, on Monday ordered security forces in the country's west to "take the necessary measures" to reopen the pipelines after they were closed down by "outlaws".

After reports that flights between the east and west of Libya had been suspended, Williams also warned Monday that "freedom of movement around the country is a basic right and all civilian flights should be resumed".

The US embassy said in a tweet that restoring flight services "between east and west is an important signal of national unity at a critical time" and that they were "prepared to assist in facilitating this as soon as possible."

Tripoli's aviation authorities have not officially confirmed the suspension of flights.

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