Libya’s U.N.-backed government has signed a deal with an armed brigade controlling the major Ras Lanuf and Es Sider oil ports to end a blockade and restart exports from the terminals shut down since December 2014.
Reopening the ports would be a huge step for the North African state, which since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi has slipped into chaos that has cut its oil output to less than a quarter of pre-2011 levels of 1.6 million barrels per day.
No specific date was set for restarting exports, but swift resumption would be hampered by technical damage from militant attacks and by opposition from the state-run National Oil Corporation, which objected to paying cash to reopen the ports.
Libyan Presidential Council deputy Mousa Alkouni signed the agreement late on Thursday with Ibrahim al-Jathran, commander of the Petroleum Facilities Guards, one of Libya’s many armed brigades that has controlled the terminals.
“I think the resumption depends now on technical part … and I think also it will happen from within a week to two weeks, but not more,” Alkouni told Reuters by telephone.
He said the agreement included paying an unspecified amount in salaries to Jathran’s forces. He said they had not been paid wages for 26 months. Their role is protecting the oil ports, though critics have said they used it to extort money from Tripoli.