TRIPOLI: Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan expressed hope on Wednesday that last-ditch mediation can end a crisis sparked by the months-long blockade of eastern oil terminals by striking security guards.
“Delegations whose tribes have their own initiatives have decided to engage in mediation to find a solution to the crisis,” Zeidan told reporters.
Armed protesters have refused to lift their blockade of vital oil terminals in eastern Libya, despite a tribal pledge to do so, sending output plummeting to 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the normal level of almost 1.5 million bpd.
“We prefer to give an opportunity to these initiatives, which will be the last,” said Zeidan.
The Libyan leader warned his government would “take its responsibility” if the mediation failed, while saying the crisis would be ended in January.
At the weekend, Zeidan issued a renewed threat of force to lift the blockade, an action that the armed security guards launched in July in a protest to support demands for regional autonomy.
And on Wednesday he refused to negotiate with the protesters, accusing them of “betraying the mission they were entrusted with to secure these oil sites.”
Zeidan said the protesters were a matter for prosecutors, adding that their action had lowered state revenues by 60 percent, less than his estimate of 80 percent given last month.
He added that “the preparation of the budget has been delayed” by the blockades and that because of the crisis “measures have been taken including the reduction of state spending.”
Oil Minister Abdelbari al-Arusi said in early December that lost production because of the blockades had cost Libya “around $9.0 billion” (6.6 billion euros) in revenues.
Since the ouster of Libya’s long-time leader Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, authorities have struggled to quell rising lawlessness and impose their authority.