The Libyan rebels that have controlled several key ports have agreed to hold talks with the central government and will reopen ports within a few days. The easing of tensions and the possible reopening of several ports could restore oil exports. “The oil port issue will be solved within days. We agreed on all issues with the government in Tripoli,” Abb-Rabbo al-Barassi, the “Prime Minister” of the rebels, told Reuters. A government official will visit rebel groups to negotiate over the next several days.
The rebels have been in a standoff with the government as it seeks regional autonomy for the people of Cyrenaica, the historic name for eastern Libya. But the rebels appear to have scaled back their ambitions after the U.S. Navy seized an oil tanker in the Mediterranean trying to illegally sell oil from a rebel-controlled port in Libya. The tone from the rebels changed notably, with the group’s leader Ibrahim Jathran offering more conciliatory words than in the past. “This agreement will upset all those who don't want the good for Libya and its people but it will make happy all national thinking Libyans. That's important for us. That's what we strive for,” he said, in reference to the recent deal with the government to negotiate. He also wore a suit and tie instead of the military uniform he wore as the rebel commander, perhaps an indication that the group will seek a diplomatic resolution.
Related Article: Is it Time To Forget About Libyan Oil?
It remains to be seen whether or not the two sides can come to an agreement, and whether or not oil will begin flowing again in significant volumes. Libyan oil exports have dried up, down to only a trickle of about 150,000 barrels per day. Last summer, Libya was exporting around 600,000 bpd, and before the Libyan revolution the country was exporting well over one million bpd.
By Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com