Libya militia says will open oil terminals in mid-December, signalling resolution to oil crisis

CAIRO – The Libyan militia that shut down most of the country’s oil terminals for months causing the loss of millions of dollars said Tuesday that terminals will reopen on Dec. 15.

Ibrahim Jedran, leader of the militia, made his remarks after meeting influential tribal leaders and mediators of the al-Magharba tribe in eastern Libya.

Jedran, a former rebel in 2011’s eight-month war against longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, reiterated earlier demands to form a committee to redistribute oil revenues between the country’s three main regions.

The closure of the terminals was first justified as an attempt to curb corruption in oil sales, however militia leaders pressed the government to change the country’s political system and distribute oil revenues more equally.

Since Gadhafi’s fall, Libya has fallen hostage to militia groups challenging the central government and threatened its transition to democratic rule.

Jedran, head of the so-called Political Bureau of Barqa, is a leading advocate of a federal state in which each region has some autonomy as was the case from 1951 until 1963 under King Idris when Libya was divided into three regions: Cyrenaica, or Barqa, Tripolitania and Fezzan. Like other Libyan regions, easterners have long complained of discrimination by the central government in Tripoli.

He added, “if the government didn’t respond, the Barqa Political Bureau would have had have another position.” He hinted that he might not reopen the terminals if the government didn’t meet his conditions.

Tribal leader Saleh al-Atyoush described the meeting as “exceptional” and said he and others had mediated to ensure the reopening, stressing his tribe has not played a role in the shutdown. He added: “The Libyan people are frustrated and the government threatens to stop salaries.”

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Ali Zidan said that the government is spending billions of dollars from its foreign reserves to compensate the losses of oil revenues. Libya has been losing millions of dollars every day after production dropped from 1.4 billion barrels a day to a few thousand since the closure.