Libya’s warring sides have agreed to unify forces that protect oil facilities following the United Nations-sponsored talks with the head of the country’s National Oil Corporation (NOC).
The talks were held on Monday in Brega, part of the coastal area known as the Oil Crescent that is believed to hold most of Libya’s oil.
“Today in this historic location, at this historic moment we launched a process to unify the petroleum facilities guards,” Stephanie Williams, the acting head of the UN’s Support Mission in Libya, told reporters in Brega.
NOC head Mustafa Sanalla said the aim is to create a new protection force that would be made up of civilian and military personnel and its leader would be affiliated with the corporation, according to Libya’s Al-Ahrar television.
Oil exports are the main source of national income for Libya, a country that has been mired in chaos since the 2011 overthrow and killing of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi. It has since been divided into two rival camps based in the country’s east and west – and that in recent years have been vying for power.
This year, oil production was halted for nine months, as forces loyal to eastern-based renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar shut down oilfields and terminals to put pressure on their rivals, the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) that is based in the capital, Tripoli.
They lifted the blockade in September.
Earlier this month, the NOC said production of Libyan crude oil exceeded one million barrels per day, the same level before the blockade began in January.
Monday’s talks were held as part of continuing military discussions between the two sides.
Williams said Monday’s meeting builds on a ceasefire reached last month in the Swiss city of Geneva. Since then, delegates from the two sides have met several times to discuss steps of implementing the ceasefire, including opening a main coastal route to allow the passage of civilians.
The military talks are held parallel to economic and political talks. All three are taking place under the umbrella of an international conference held in Germany’s capital, Berlin, in January, Williams said.
Delegates at the economic talks made progress on the proposals for the management of Libya’s oil wealth, she added.
Six days of direct talks held in Tunisia adjourned on Sunday night, during which rival delegates agreed to hold national elections on December 24, 2021.
The political talks are to resume online in a week and will focus on the mechanisms to form a new government that will oversee the polls.
Williams said “no names … were discussed” during the talks in Tunis, adding that “10 years of conflict cannot be resolved in one week”.
“There has to be more technocratic competencies in the government. They need to understand they are only there for a short period of time,” she said at the end of the meetings.
There has also been a decision that women would constitute at least 30 percent of the next cabinet, she added.