Thursday August 18, 2022

US envoy to Libya warns rivals don’t use oil as a weapon

June 30, 2022

TRIPOLI: The United States’ ambassador to Libya warned rival actors on Wednesday against using the country’s oil wealth as a political "weapon", amid an internal blockade that has slashed output since April.

"The United States continues to support the vast majority of Libyans who expect elections and demand that the country’s oil wealth be managed responsibly," ambassador Richard Norland said, according to an embassy statement.

Normally based in neighbouring Tunisia due to Libya’s delicate security situation, Norland spoke in Tripoli during the first overnight visit by an American ambassador in years. Libya, which has Africa’s largest oil reserves, has seen more than a decade of intermittent conflict since the 2011 toppling and killing of dictator Moamer Qadhafi in a Nato-backed revolt.

"While the ceasefire and dialogue have continued, it is alarming that some narrow interests are using the oil sector as a weapon or have unilaterally made decisions affecting the spending of Libya’s oil revenues," Norland said.

Crude pipelines, refineries and export terminals have frequently been blockaded in both local disputes and bigger political struggles. Norland’s comments came more than two months into the latest blockade, by forces backing one of two governments vying for power.

The envoy said Washington supports "concrete steps to end the misuse of economic tools as part of political disputes, by any side." His comments also come as US inflation has soared to highs not seen in decades, due in part to elevated global oil prices.

Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) said on Monday that a blockade at oil installations in the central Mediterranean coastal region of Sirte meant it may declare force majeur, a measure freeing it of contractual obligations due to circumstances beyond its control.