As Libya prepares to resume oil production, concerns have been raised over who supervises its export and how to ensure oil revenue will be divided equally among interested parties.
Commander Khalifa Hifter, whose east-based forces led a failed yearlong siege to take the capital, Tripoli, from the U.N.-backed government announced Friday that his forces would allow the Libyan oil facilities to start operating again for the first time since January “with conditions that ensure a fair distribution of revenue.”
Officials, politicians and observers considered the move by Hifter a gesture that would overcome the obstacles to a possible comprehensive Libyan consensus.
The Deputy Prime Minister of the Libyan Interim Government in the east of the country, Dr. Abdisalam al-Badri, hailed the move as a positive step.
"The decision was clear and very important, as it addressed all the demands of the Libyan people, which are fairness in distribution (of revenues) and not to waste oil resources (on war)," he said, speaking from Benghazi.
Al-Badri added that these revenues will be deposited in special bank accounts so that they are not disposed of until after the formation of a unified Libyan government.
Doubts over this arrangement were voiced by the consultant of the oil and gas sector in the Interim Government, Dr. Abduljalil Mayouf.
Mayouf queried whether the decision would benefit the National Oil Corporation in Tripoli, west of the country, or the National Oil Corporation located in Benghazi in the east of the country, which he considers "legitimate".
Mayouf added that in the event of preference for the western Libyan oil corporation, then guarantees must be submitted by the US government to ensure oil revenues will be fairly divided over all regions of Libya.
Hifter, the commander of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) , announced Friday, September 18, that the work of the oil installations in the country would resume and export will restart in response to popular demands to improve living conditions.
In turn, the Petroleum Facilities Guard of the LAAF announced that it had granted permission to oil companies to resume production and export operations from fields and ports, as of September 18, 2020.
Libya’s highly prized, light crude has long been a factor in its civil war, as rival militias and foreign powers jostle for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves.
Powerful eastern tribes loyal to Hifter first seized control of the oil fields in January, cutting Libya’s 1.2 million barrels a day to a trickle and starving the country of badly needed cash, to protest what they said were the inequitable distribution of revenues.
Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled and killed longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi. The country has since split between rival east- and west-based administrations, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.
The blockade has deprived the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation of nearly $10 billion in revenue and led to nationwide fuel shortages.