Blockade on Libyan oil to continue

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Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) said on Saturday it would maintain a blockade on oil production and exports that the National Oil Corp (NOC) says has cost the country $6.5 billion in lost revenue.

Friday’s loading of a first tanker since January with oil from storage had led NOC to lift force majeure on all exports, though it warned that damage to fields meant it would take a long time to fully restore production.

However, LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari said in an online statement that the country’s oil fields and ports are “closed until the orders of the Libyan people are implemented”, laying out conditions to lift the blockade.

Libya has been split since 2014 between the Turkey-backed, Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which is recognised by the United Nations, and the LNA in the east of the country supported by the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt.

Under existing arrangements backed by the U.N., oil is produced and exported by the NOC with revenues flowing to the Central Bank of Libya. Both institutions are based in Tripoli, but the money funds public sector bodies and the salaries of state employees in all parts of the country across front lines.

Mismari demanded that revenue should flow into a new bank account outside Libya to be distributed between regions; that it should not fund what he called “terrorists and mercenaries”; and an audit of central bank accounts to investigate past spending.

The LNA routinely describes pro-GNA forces as terrorists and Turkish forces that back the Tripoli government as mercenaries. The U.N. has decried a flood of foreign fighters and weapons into Libya to support both sides of the war in violation of an arms embargo.