UAE wants to see a return of Libya's oil production with safeguards: minister

DUBAI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates wants to see a return of Libya’s oil production as soon as possible but with safeguards in place to prevent proceeds from fuelling further conflict in the north African country, a senior Emirati official tweeted on Monday.

Libya has been divided since 2015 between areas held by an internationally recognised government in Tripoli, backed by Turkey, and a rival administration linked to the Libyan National Army (LNA) in Benghazi, backed by the UAE, Russia and Egypt.

Anwar Gargash, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, did not directly address accusations by Libya’s National Oil Corp (NOC) on Sunday that the Gulf state had instructed forces it backs in Libya’s civil war to reimpose a blockade of oil exports.

Oilfields and export facilities are mostly in territory held by the LNA of eastern commander Khalifa Haftar. But an international agreement says that oil can only be exported by the Tripoli-based NOC, with payments going to the Central Bank there.

Ankara’s backing has helped the GNA to drive the LNA from Tripoli, which it had beseiged, and the northwest. Any further advance by the GNA would give it the chance to retake control over Libya’s ‘oil crescent’, the region where most of the OPEC member’s energy is produced and exported.

NOC resumed force majeure on oil exports after the LNA said on Saturday the blockade would continue despite it having let a tanker load with oil from storage.

It was not clear which safeguards the UAE wants in place but the LNA said it would keep the blockade until oil revenues are channelled into a new bank account based outside the country to then be distributed regionally.

The LNA added other conditions including the establishment of a “transparent mechanism” to oversee public spending and an audit of the Tripoli-based central bank.

The UAE continues to work for an immediate ceasefire and a return to a political process in Libya, Gargash said.

The Emirati foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

NOC also tried to restart production at the Sharara oilfield, but said this effort was quickly shut down, and it accused Russian mercenaries fighting alongside the LNA of deploying there.

Haftar has been losing ground since Turkish support helped GNA forces to push back his 14-month-old assault on the capital Tripoli.

Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, Editing by William Maclean