U.S. embassy in Libya says Haftar’s LNA committed to ending oil blockade

The Eastern Libya-based administration of General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) is going to lift its block on the export of oil, according to the U.S. embassy in Libya.

The LNA announced on August 19 that they would lift their blockade, which has been in place since January, and is designed to limit the resources of the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli. Despite this statement in August, it appears that the blockade has still not ended, prompting a further guarantee by the U.S. embassy.

The lifting of the blockade is part of wider diplomatic efforts to cement a ceasefire in Libya, where the conflict has begun to draw in other regional powers. Russia has been sending mercenaries to assist Haftar, while Turkey has been offering military support to the GNA. The involvement of Turkey prompted the Egyptian government’s threat to intervene to support Haftar, a threat which led to diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire.

The January blockade by the LNA, which controls the majority of Libya’s oil fields, reduced Libya’s output from over one million barrels of oil per day (bpd) to around 100,000 bpd.

However, despite an announcement by the head of Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) that the blockade would be lifted in July, little progress has been made. The NOC has struggled to keep oil production out of the hands of rival forces, and has tried to reach a deal where profits from exports would be frozen for a period of time. The LNA eventually contradicted the NOC, saying that the embargo would continue.

The promise of a return to oil exports was reiterated on August 19, there doesn’t seem to have been any progress on reopening them. Reuters reported on Saturday that “Engineers at two oilfields and one port said they remained closed. The state-run National Oil Corporation (NOC), based in Tripoli, and an LNA spokesman, had no immediate comment.”

The statement by the U.S. embassy said that "The LNA subsequently conveyed to the US government the personal commitment of General Haftar to allow the full reopening of the energy sector no later than September 12”. However, the LNA has not yet released a statement itself.

The NOC chairman, Mustafa Sanalla, has said that Libya faces a severe economic crisis over the coming months unless oil exports are resumed. However, the security situation around Eastern Libyan ports remains unstable, making it difficult for ships to dock.