Today's Paper Latest Elections Coronavirus 🔵 Covid Classroom Cooking Families Core values Story ideas iPad Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive

CAIRO -- The U.S. Embassy in Libya said Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter agreed to reopen key oil fields and terminals no later than Saturday, a move that raised hopes of advancing talks between the country's warring sides as they draw closer to a political settlement to the yearslong conflict.

By Saturday evening, it was not immediately clear whether the blockade had been lifted.

Powerful tribes in eastern Libya that are loyal to Hifter have kept export terminals closed and choked off major pipelines since the start of the year. That move aimed to put pressure on their rivals in the U.N.-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, in the country's west.

Oil-rich Libya was plunged into disorder when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. The country has since split between rival east- and west-based administrations, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.

The U.S. Embassy statement said Hifter's Libyan Arab Armed Forces conveyed to the U.S. government "the personal commitment of General Hifter to allow the full reopening of the energy sector no later than Sept. 12."

There was no immediate comment from the armed forces, and Hifter's spokesman did not immediately answer phone calls seeking comment.

The U.S. Embassy said it was encouraged by "an apparent sovereign Libyan agreement" to enable Libya's National Oil Corp. to resume its "vital and apolitical work."

The U.S. supports "a financial model that would constitute a credible guarantee that oil and gas revenues would be managed transparently and preserved for the benefit of the Libyan people," the embassy said, adding: "Credible safeguards will enable all Libyans to have confidence that revenues are not misappropriated." It did not elaborate.

Hifter in July called for oil revenue to flow into a bank account in a foreign country with a "clear mechanism" to distribute funds fairly among Libya's regions.

The embassy said it welcomed "what appears to be a Libyan consensus that it is time to reopen the energy sector." The statement said Libyans are suffering through an acute electricity crisis, rooted in the forced shutdown of oil and gas production.

Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa and the ninth-biggest known reserves in the world.

The U.S. statement came two days after delegates from Libya's rival camps, under heavy international pressure, came to a preliminary political agreement. It aims to guide the country toward elections and demilitarize the contested city of Sirte, which is controlled by Hifter and is the gateway to Libya's major oil fields and export terminals.


Sponsor Content

COMMENTS - It looks like you're using Internet Explorer, which isn't compatible with the Democrat-Gazette commenting system. You can join the discussion by using another browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome.
It looks like you're using Microsoft Edge. The Democrat-Gazette commenting system is more compatible with Firefox and Google Chrome.