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Libya oil standoff continues after tanker escape | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Rebels under Ibrahim Jathran unload ammunition from a boat at the Sidra port in Ras Lanuf on March 11, 2014. (Reuters/Esam Omran Al-Fetori)

Rebels under Ibrahim Jathran unload ammunition from a boat at the Sidra port in Ras Lanuf on March 11, 2014. (Reuters/Esam Omran Al-Fetori)

Rebels under Ibrahim Jathran unload ammunition from a boat at the Sidra port in Ras Lanuf on March 11, 2014. (Reuters/Esam Omran Al-Fetori)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Libyan National Oil Corporation has declared force majeure in Harega oil port east of the country, saying it is once again unable to fulfill oil contracts after the state was temporarily lifted at the end of October last year.

A standoff between Libya’s interim government in Tripoli and rebels demanding more autonomy in control of several oil terminals in the east of the country continues. Rebels who control three oil terminals said they were prepared to negotiate with the Libyan government to end the siege if the government abandoned plans to launch a military attack.

Abd Rabbuh Al-Baraasi, who recently declared himself president of the Brega province, told Reuters that the talks could not start until the central government had withdrawn all the forces it sent to central Libya to confront them.

He added that a tanker loaded with oil last week at a port under rebel control had arrived at its destination, which he did not name, and that more tankers were expected to arrive at the besieged ports.

The Brega province’s media bureau, meanwhile, denied the existence of an initiative or agreement to hand over the oil ports to a neutral party.

The bureau said in a statement on Saturday that the reports were untrue and baseless, adding that the province’s political and executive bureaus would not withdraw the region’s “just demands.”

He added: “The forces are still in position in Wadi Al-Ahmar and fighters are arriving in Brega from various regions to confront anyone who threatens the province and Libyan territorial integrity.”

Meanwhile, reports have said an unidentified oil tanker was approaching Sidra Port to be loaded with oil illegally, according to sources close to the Libyan government. A North Korean flagged oil tanker escaped pursuit by Libyan naval forces a few days ago when it was loaded with 36 million US dollars’ worth of oil.

Libyan authorities said they no longer had any information about the oil tanker, which is thought to be owned by an Egyptian company.

Libyan sources in Cairo told Asharq Al-Awsat that Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz has travelled to Cairo to hold talks with Egyptian government officials and ask them to help stop the tankers if they approached Egyptian territorial waters.

Meanwhile, Captain Rami Kaal, official spokesman of the Libyan Interior Ministry, said efforts were being made to release 68 Egyptian detainees held in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. He said 15 of the detainees were processed and would be released in the coming hours, while the remaining detainees would be interviewed to ensure their entry and resident visas were in order.

Kaal told a local news agency that the Egyptian detainees, who are being held at the Anti-Crime Center in Tripoli, were all in good health, and that coordination was continuing between the Libyan interior and foreign ministries, and the Egyptian embassy, to resolve the issue.

In a related issue, the ambassadors of the US, UK, France, Italy and Germany, as well as the deputy UN envoy for the support of Libya and the EU envoy to Libya, have all expressed readiness to provide the help needed to achieve democratic transition in Libya.

The ambassadors held discussions on Saturday with the new prime minister of the transitional government, Abdallah Al-Thinni, on the progress of relations between Libya and their countries and ways to develop them. The recommendations of the recent Friends of Libya Conference in Rome were also discussed.

In the meantime, the Justice and Construction Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, has condemned the assassination and kidnapping incidents in the city of Derna, which have become a daily occurrence. The latest of these incidents was the discovery of a number of bodies killed by unknown parties, including two members of the security staff of a local bank.

The party announced in a statement it released on Saturday that it was in solidarity with the families of the victims and called on everyone to stand united before the challenges facing the country.