Libya says committed to rebel deal, hopes two more ports to reopen soon

Tripoli - Libya’s government is committed to implementing an agreement with rebels occupying two ports.

di Ulf Laessing and Feras Bosalum

Tripoli - Libya’s government is committed to implementing an agreement with rebels occupying two ports in its east and hopes the Ras Lanuf and Es Sider export terminals will reopen soon, a minister said on Thursday. On Wednesday, rebel leaders had accused Tripoli of not fulfilling its part of an agreement struck in April to reopen four seized ports, two of which have been already reopened. “Both sides are committed to the agreement ... Two ports have been reopened, Hariga and Zueitina. God willing, Ras Lanuf and Es Sider will reopen soon,” Justice Minister Salah al-Merghani said in the first official reaction. He acknowledged there was an “administrative slowness” in implementing the deal but that was no reason for concern. The government was committed to its obligations such as paying salaries for the rebels being integrated to a government force from which they had defected when they seized the ports.

“Some people are trying to exploit this politically,” he told reporters, without naming anyone. ‘The implementation is on a good way.” The rebel leaders said on Wednesday they would boycott the new Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq and keep Ras Lanuf and Es Sider ports shut for now. They even warned they would take action if Tripoli did not fulfill the agreement, a veiled threat to close the Hariga and Zueitina terminals again. The struggle over energy wealth is part of growing turmoil in the North African country three years after the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Maiteeq’s predecessor, Abdullah al-Thinni, reached an agreement with the rebels to reopen four of the ports, although only the smaller facilities, Hariga and Zueitina, have been handed over to government forces. Both sides agreed to hold further talks over the larger Ras Lanuf and Es Sider exports terminals. Barassi said the rebels would not deal with Maiteeq, claiming he had not come to power legally. The businessman was sworn in on Sunday after a chaotic election in parliament that was disputed by many deputies.