Libya reopens oil ports as rebels hand over control to army
Libyan authorities said Wednesday that two eastern oil ports have been reopened after an agreement with rebels to end their control of the ports.
"The ports of Zueitina and Hariga were reopened," Libyan army spokesman Ali al-Sheikhi told Anadolu Agency.
He, however, said that the two ports have not started operation yet.
Al-Sheikhi said the two ports are now under the full control by the army guards of oil institutions.
Militants have been closing oil ports in the eastern Barqa region for months to press the government into applying a federal system in Libya.
Libya's oil production, estimated at 1.4 million barrels a day before the beginning of the eastern ports' crisis, sharply fell to about a fifth by the end of February.
According to a Libyan government statement on April 7, a deal was signed between Ibrahim Jedran, the head of the self-styled Political Bureau of Barqa, and local mediators, including MP Sheria al-Wafi.
Under the deal, the ports of Zueitina and Hariga would be handed over to the government immediately while the Ras Lanuf and Sidra ports would be handed over no later than four weeks from the signing.
The six-point deal stipulates that the Justice Ministry would form a committee to probe alleged financial and administrative irregularities in the oil sector since the fall of late strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
It says that once the deal was fully implemented, the mediators would discuss with the Libyan prosecutors closing all pending cases involving the closure of the oil ports and suspension of oil exports.
The developments come as Libya's interim authorities are still struggling to restore order and contain militancy on the streets since Gaddafi's ouster.
The lifting of the rebel blockade of Ras Lanouf and Al-Sidra would be an even bigger prize. Together they have a capacity of 550,000 bpd.
Western governments issued a joint statement Monday calling for a rapid reopening of the oil terminals.
They called for "the prompt establishment of a transparent and inclusive national dialogue that includes particular focus on the fundamental national and regional questions involving Libya's resources."
A Western diplomat said the rebels were "trying to find a way out of the crisis they created" with an abortive oil export bid on a rogue tanker last month.
The US Navy intercepted the tanker and returned it to Libya, and the UN Security Council passed a resolution banning all unauthorised Libyan oil exports.