Libyan rebels blockading key eastern oil ports have agreed to reopen the remaining two terminals at Es Sider and Ras Lanuf on Wednesday, a rebel spokesman said, in a “goodwill gesture” that could restore a big part of the OPEC country’s lost exports.
The rebels, who demand more autonomy for their self-declared Cyrenaica region in the east of the country, had agreed in April to reopen two smaller ports and then gradually free up Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, which they seized nearly a year ago.
Since last summer, the port seizures have crippled Libya’s oil industry. But if fulfilled, the deal to reopen the two major eastern terminals would bring back around 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil export capacity.
“An agreement has been reached between the government and the Cyrenaica government to reopen Es Sider and Ras Lanuf as a goodwill gesture,” Ali al-Hasi, a rebel spokesman, told Reuters by telephone.
He linked the move to last Wednesday’s parliamentary election, from which results have yet to be published.
There was no immediate response from the government in Tripoli. Past deals to reopen the ports have failed, but a accord in April has already freed up the Zueitina and Hariga oil terminals.
Hasi said the other ports would reopen on Wednesday as part of an agreement whose conditions would include dropping charges against those who had seized them.
Libya had produced around 1.4 million bpd before a wave of protests, strikes and blockades reduced the output to as low as 150,000 bpd. As of Tuesday, it stood at 321,000 bpd.
Disputes over Libya’s oil have been just one of the battles among rival brigades of former rebels since the civil war that ended four decades of Muammar Gaddafi’s one-man rule in 2011.
Caught in political infighting, the weak central government and nascent national army have been unable to impose control over bands of fighters who often use their military muscle to impose demands on the state.