Tunisia: Saied Asserts Claims to Bouri Field, Confusing Libyan Policymakers

by | Mar 17, 2023 | Diplomacy, Economic, Tunisia


On 16 March 2023, President Kais Saied asserted that Tunisia maintains a claim to the Bouri offshore oil field, leading to a scramble among Libyan officials to respond. Multiple Libyan officials were quick to deny Saied’s claims, pointing to the long-agreed upon boundaries and rights Libya has maintained at the Bouri field.

Libya was granted sole claim to the Bouri oil field by an International Court of Justice ruling in 1982 that established an agreed upon maritime border. With the ownership and production rights for the site long-settled, Saied’s announcement that Tunisia maintains some production rights seems to have come as a surprise to many policymakers and observers.

In his statements regarding the Bouri field, President Saied expressed frustration about the lack of benefit that Tunisia has received from the oil field. He appeared to refer to a proposed agreement to share rights to the field between and Tunisia. However, this agreement was never reached between the two parties and was not implemented.



Statements by President Saied regarding the Bouri oil field have confused Libyan officials, however, the issue does not appear to be moving toward a diplomatic conflict between the two countries. Relations between the two neighbors have largely been moving forward amicably, with Tunisia supporting the Tripoli-based government.

Tunisia appears to lack any grounds for raising the issue. However, Saied may be searching for additional and increasingly desperate sources of economic stimulation as pressure continues to grow on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan deal. Western powers continue to pressure Saied to adopt the austerity measures called for by the IMF in order to move the $1.9 billion deal forward. However, Tunisia’s powerful labor unions have promised to make any reform process contentious.


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