Forces loyal to Libya’s powerful general, Khalifa Haftar, who is opposed to the country’s UN-backed government, have seized control of two key oil terminals in the north.
The Libyan news agency, LANA, which advocates the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), said Sunday that Haftar's forces took control of al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf ports, located on the Mediterranean coast.
Colonel Ahmad Mesmari, a spokesman for the GNA, said clashes continued near Zuwaytina port further to the east of the so-called “oil crescent,” which is seen as key to Libya’s economy.
Haftar, a powerful general since the era of slain Libyan dictator, Muammar Gadhafi, previously fought for an internationally-recognized authority based in eastern city of Tobruk. However, he refused to endorse the GNA, which came to power in December after the United Nations managed to broker a deal between some representatives of the east-based parliament and the militants ruling the capital Tripoli in the west.
UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, expressed concern about the capture of the terminals, saying Libya’s oil belongs to all Libyans.
“Conflicts can only be solved through dialogue, not violence. Urge all parties to sit 2gether,” Kobler tweeted.
Ras Lanuf and al-Sidra are capable of handling 700,000 barrels of oil per day.
Libya is estimated to have oil reserves of about 48 billion barrels, which is the largest in Africa. The country's National Oil Company is in charge of managing the ailing oil sector, which has seen production plummet from 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) to just 300,000 bpd since 2010. The company is divided into two branches with one functioning from the capital under the authority of the GNA and the other based in east.