By Jamie Prentis.
Tunis, 9 April 2017:
The Presidency Council’s (PC) foreign minister has denied rumours alleging he asked for an end to ‘Operation Mediterranean Storm,’ which seeks to counter the smuggling of Libya’s subsidised fuel by sea.
Operation Mediterranean Storm was launched last week by the Fuel Crisis Committee in collaboration with the navy and airforce to try and put an end of the smuggling of Libyan fuel abroad.
In a statement, Mohamed Siala dismissed accusations that Tunisia, to which large quantities of cheap Libyan fuel is smuggled on a daily basis, usually by land, had requested he end the new operation. He described such commends as “disgraceful”.
Praising the work of the crisis committee so far, Siala questioned why he would seek to stop an operation that prevented smuggling and protected one of Libya’s chief assets. It would also have been outside his remit as foreign minister, he added.
Nonetheless, it was reported tonight that the Ras Jedir border crossing had been closed on the Tunisia side by protesters angry at Libya’s new anti-smuggling moves. The crossing has regularly been closed as a result of protests by locals from the Tunisian border town of Ben Guerdane many of whom make their living from smuggling subsidised Libyan fuel into Tunisia.
Meanwhile, the Fuel Crisis Committee today claimed on its Facebook page that since it launched Operation Mediterranean Storm Committee 95 percent of fuel smuggling operations had stopped. It is not clear on what evidence that it makes the claim.
In January, the committee tried to stop fuel smuggling to Tunisia, a manoeuvre that again led to furious protests at Ras Jedir and Ben Guerdane.