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Libya's state oil firm says jet fuel illegally shipped to east

by Reuters
Monday, 16 March 2020 18:30 GMT

(Adds background, details)

By Angus McDowall and Aidan Lewis

TUNIS/CAIRO, March 16 (Reuters) - A shipment of jet fuel has been imported into eastern Libya from the United Arab Emirates in breach of an arms embargo and other international agreements, Libya's NOC state oil company said on Monday.

Libya has had no stable central authority since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown by NATO-backed rebels in 2011. For more than five years, its territory has been split between the Tripoli-based government in the west and a rival eastern administration in Benghazi.

Forces loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar have been trying for almost a year to capture Tripoli, home to the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

Eastern forces have also blockaded oil exports in recent months, straining the GNA's finances and testing international commitment to uphold the role of the NOC (National Oil Corporation) as Libya's only legitimate oil exporter.

"The shipment came from the UAE to Benghazi on a ship called Gulf Petroleum 4 and has been in Benghazi port for a number of days," the NOC said in a statement.

Haftar's Libyan National Army is militarily backed by the UAE and Egypt, which have carried out air strikes, while the GNA is supported by Turkey.

The NOC added that it had informed the United Nations, as well as the GNA in Tripoli and other governments. A Western diplomat working on Libya said the import of jet fuel to Benghazi would break the U.N. arms embargo imposed on Libya since 2011.

Officials in the parallel administration that controls eastern Libya did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

U.N. officials were not immediately available for comment while the UAE government media office did not immediately respond outside working hours.

The U.N. special envoy Ghassan Salame had spoken out against breaches of the arms embargo before resigning last week. His successor has not yet been appointed and diplomatic efforts to end the conflict appear to have stalled for now.

The NOC says that besides violating the arms embargo on Libya, the shipment breaches an international agreement signed by the UAE recognising the company as the exclusive importer of fuel into Libya.

Although the NOC is based in Tripoli, it manages oil fields across the country and revenue from energy exports pays for salaries for state employees in both west and east Libya.

NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in the statement that the company had "supplied sufficient fuel to all parts of Libya, including the eastern regions, to meet all civilian needs, including civil aviation".

Diplomats said the alleged jet fuel import threatened to undermine the NOC's role as the only legitimate exporter of Libyan oil. "It's a first shot across the bow. Next it will be exports of crude," said a second diplomat. (Reporting by Angus McDowall in Tunis and Aidan Lewis in Cairo; Editing by Mark Potter and Pravin Char)

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