PARIS, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 10th August, 2016) - Six Western countries including Britain, the United States and France expressed concerns Wednesday about mounting tensions around the key Libyan oil terminal of Zueitina. In a call also backed by Germany, Italy and Spain, the countries urged that control of all oil facilities in Libya "be transferred unconditionally and without preconditions or delay back to the legitimate national authorities", the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
The statement called for "all parties to refrain from hostilities and avoid any action that could damage or disrupt Libya's energy infrastructure". The six countries expressed particular concern about "reports of increasing tension" near Zueitina, one of Libya's largest oil facilities on the Mediterranean coast about 900 kilometres (550 miles) east of Tripoli. Libya's oil sector, the country's main source of income, is managed by the National Oil Company which is split into two rival branches.
The main branch is based in the capital Tripoli and allied to the GNA, but its rival in the east has so far refused to cede power to the internationally recognised Tripoli government. Forces loyal to the eastern government are threatening to seize Zueitina, which is currently mainly under the control of a rival faction, the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG). The PFG is loyal to the UN-backed government. The National Oil Company said this month it was preparing to resume exports of crude which have been halted for months because of political differences and attacks by jihadists.
But the eastern authorities have threatened to bomb oil tankers that approach the Libyan coast without their permission. There are reports that the eastern forces have sent dozens of armoured cars towards Zueitina, raising fears of imminent clashes. The six Western governments urged all sides of the conflict to recognise that the oil sector was crucial to the country's future. "Restoring oil exports is vital to generating revenues that can provide for the essential needs of the Libyan people, including electricity, healthcare, and infrastructure," they said in the statement. "It is in the interests of all Libyans that they fully support the efforts led by the GNA to provide these key services to the Libyan people." Libya's oil reserves are estimated at 48 billion barrels, the largest in Africa.