Libya's rival governments battle to control oil ports

DECEMBER 17, 2014

Forces and militias loyal to Libya's conflicting governments clashed with heavy weapons on Tuesday over control of the country's biggest oil ports in the east – even as the European Union (EU) was considering sanctions on people obstructing UN-brokered peace talks.

The United Nations had planned to hold this week a second round of talks to end fighting between Libya’s two rival governments and parliaments but fighting was undermining its efforts.

Libya has yet to see peace after the death of dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011 following an EU-backed uprising.

War

On Monday, a force allied to the rival assembly based in Tripoli, the General National Congress (GNC), moved to the east to try and seize the Es Sider and Ras Lanuf oil ports. Both terminals have closed, drying exports of an estimated 300,000 barrels a day of oil.

The recognized government, forced to work out of the east since losing control of Tripoli in August, launched more air strikes on the rival forces positioned near Es Sider.

GNC spokesman Omar Hmeidan said his government was supporting the UN talks but said the venue needed to change and the talks needed to observe that the GNC was the legitimate government in Libya.

"Members of the GNC will attend the talks as representatives of the legislative body," he said, proposing to hold the next round in the southern town of Hun.

The House of Representatives, the legislature aligned with recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, said in a statement it was supporting the UN-led dialogue but rejected talks with GNC members and its armed factions.

UN talks

The UN had held a first round of talks in September in the southern city of Ghadames by inviting the House of Representatives and members from Misrata, linked to Libya Dawn, which has boycotted sessions.

UN Special Envoy, Bernadino Leon, said last week the next round would include GNC members. The UN has not given a date or venue, saying on Monday only talks would hopefully start "soon".

Meanwhile the EU, through its foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said it was ready to consider sanctions on people obstructing a political solution.

"They must face consequences for their actions. The EU ... remains ready to consider further actions, including restrictive measures, should circumstances so require," she said in a statement.

Separately on Tuesday, African leaders meeting in Dakar urged western nations to act to resolve the crisis in Libya, which has sent shock waves across the vast arid Sahel band and threatened to destabilise fragile regional governments.

Photo caption: Libya has yet to see peace after the death of dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011 following an EU-backed uprising.