US says oil exports blocked by illegal militia of Khalifa Haftar must "resume" immediately, while Turkey's FM Mevlut Cavusoglu says Haftar must choose "political solution."

FILE IMAGE: Pipelines are seen at the industrial zone at the oil port of Ras Lanuf, Libya January 11, 2017.
FILE IMAGE: Pipelines are seen at the industrial zone at the oil port of Ras Lanuf, Libya January 11, 2017. (Reuters)

The United States called on Tuesday for an immediate resumption of Libya's lifeline oil exports that have been blocked by the illegal militia of warlord Khalifa Haftar since last week.

"The suspension of National Oil Corporation (NOC) operations risks exacerbating the humanitarian emergency in #Libya and inflicting further needless suffering on the Libyan people," the US embassy in Tripoli tweeted.

"NOC operations should resume immediately," it said.

Libya's major oil fields and production facilities remained closed on Monday, its national oil company said, in a sign that the country's militia is not backing down after an international summit to end the Libyan civil war.

The Libyan NOC confirmed it had invoked force majeure on oil exports from two key southern fields, a clause that allows for a failure to fulfill international contracts due to a sudden disruptive event.

The continued closure of virtually all of Libya's oil facilities by the militia ratchets up pressure on their adversaries in the west, the UN-backed government that controls the capital, Tripoli.

The disruption was expected to more than halve daily crude output to 500,000 barrels from 1.3 million barrels, leading to losses of $55 million a day, the NOC warned.

Haftar must choose 'political solution'

Haftar must abide by calls for a political solution to the conflict in Libya and take steps to secure "calm on the ground", Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

Cavusoglu said Haftar's refusal to sign a joint communique in Berlin had raised questions about his intent.

"Does Haftar want a political or military solution? Until now, his stance has shown he wants a military one," he told Turkish broadcaster NTV at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"Haftar must immediately fall back to the political solution line and take concrete and positive steps in line with calls of the international community for calm on the ground."

Arms embargo

World powers with interests in Libya’s long-running conflict pledged on Sunday to respect a much-violated arms embargo and push opposing factions to reach a truce.

But on the ground, tensions remained high. As world leaders convened about military de-escalation, observers said scattered clashes erupted outside Tripoli, testing a tenuous week-old ceasefire.

Warlord Khalifa Haftar's east-based militia have been laying siege to the capital for months.

“People are holding their breath,” said Mohamed Eljarh, a political analyst who is based in the eastern city of Tobruk.

“I am worried there is no appetite among the warring parties and their constituencies for a truce right now," Eljarh added.

A doctor and resident of southern Tripoli, Mohamed Malek, 27, said he fled his neighborhood late Sunday when he heard sporadic exchanges of gunfire.

Another Tripoli resident, Ahmed Werfali, 34, said he heard a loud explosion early Monday, and limited fighting overnight. But the violence was far less than the routine pounding of heavy weaponry before the cease-fire, he said.

Aid workers in the capital's southern suburbs said they had not been able to recover corpses for several days because of continued fighting.

“We found six corpses stuck under rubble but there was intense shooting and we couldn't reach them until today," said Assad Jaafar, a spokesman for Libya's Red Crescent.

Dozens of militiamen from tribal groups loyal to Hafter continued on Monday to camp out in the two southern oil fields, al-Sharara, Libya’s largest, and al-Feel.

Haftar's tribal allies closed a major pipeline over the weekend, stopping about 380,000 barrels per day of production and potentially cutting national output to a small fraction of its normal level.

“This sit-in will continue,” vowed Mohamed Maikal, the leader of the group that seized the fields, known as Fezzan. “There is a pessimistic situation after what happened in Berlin.”

The protesters accuse the Tripoli-based government, which controls Libya’s Central Bank, of using oil revenues to fund military operations against Haftar’s militia.

The shut-down of production in the south follows the weekend closure of all eastern export terminals.

Only offshore fields and one smaller facility remain operational, the national oil company said.

Oil, the lifeline of Libya’s economy, has long been a key factor in the civil war, as rival authorities jostle for control of oil fields and state revenue. Libya has the ninth-largest known oil reserves in the world and the biggest oil reserves in Africa.

It remains unclear whether the commitment to halt foreign interference announced in Berlin will prove any more effective in winding down the years-long war in Libya than past pledges that have been widely ignored.

Haftar's failure to ink roadmap

Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya expert at The Netherlands Institute of International Relations, said that the Berlin summit had delivered “absolutely none” of the “concrete mechanisms” needed to ensure all parties to the conflict observe commitments to a truce and de-escalation.

Libya’s two main rival leaders, Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj and warlord Haftar, did not sign any documents, let alone appear in the same room. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her foreign minister said they met the leaders separately ahead of the conference.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking to reporters on his way back from Berlin, criticised Haftar's failure to ink a roadmap for ending the war.

“It remained verbal, witnessed by those who participated in the meeting," the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted him as saying.

Germany’s UN Ambassador Christoph Heusgen told reporters Monday the most important issue now is that the warring Libyan parties negotiate a "real ceasefire.” Talks are supposed to start this week under UN auspices in Geneva, he said.

“What is very important is that everybody recognised there is no military solution to this conflict,” Heusgen said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies