Armed groups, demanding autonomy for eastern Libya, have invited foreign companies to buy oil from ports they have seized in defiance of the central government in Tripoli. As Reuters reports, "If a ship docks in one of the closed ports," warned Libya's defense ministry, "then we will destroy it," but the group, led by tribal leader and 2011 civil war hero Ibrahim Jathran, shrugged off Tripoli’s warning, stating "we welcome global oil companies ... The oil security guards will guarantee the safety of tankers." The development adds to an air of chaos as the weak Tripoli government struggles to rein in the armed groups that helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but which kept their guns and are now demanding political power and a bigger share of the country’s oil wealth.
Via gCaptain (Reuters),
Armed groups demanding autonomy for eastern Libya have invited foreign companies to buy oil from ports they have seized in defiance of the central government in Tripoli.
In an announcement on Tuesday, they also pledged to protect tankers loading crude, after the Libyan defence ministry said it would destroy vessels using ports in the east, which are under control of the protesters linked to a self-proclaimed regional government.
On Monday, the Libyan navy said it fired warning shots at a tanker trying to load oil at the eastern port of Es-Sider, which was seized with two other terminals by the autonomy group in August. The three harbours accounted previously for 600,000 barrels a day.
But the group, led by tribal leader and 2011 civil war hero Ibrahim Jathran, shrugged off Tripoli’s warning by inviting foreign companies to buy eastern oil.
"We welcome global oil companies ... The oil security guards will guarantee the safety of tankers,” said Abd-Rabbo al-Barassi, prime minister of Jathran’s self-declared government in the eastern Cyrenaica region.
Workers at the seized ports had returned to work, he said. A newly founded oil company called Libya Oil and Gas Corp would be dealing with potential buyers. A new army and coast guard, made up of Jathran’s battle-hardened fighters, would secure the ports.
Libya’s defence ministry had earlier warned potential buyers against any docking at the seized ports. “If a ship docks in one of the closed ports, and it does not leave the port again, then we will destroy it,” said Defence Ministry spokesman Said Abdul Razig al-Shbahi.
The risks of an escalation were clear over the weekend when the Libyan navy said it opened fire on a vessel trying to reach Es-Sider before the tanker, Baku, turned back to Malta.
The confrontation has raised worries that Libya, also struggling with Islamist militias and armed tribesmen, might break apart as Cyrenaica and the southern Fezzan region demand political autonomy.