Libya’s National Oil Corporation has announced the resumption of operations at ports in the Oil Crescent after the army seized the area in a decisive push against forces aligned with the unity government.
On Sunday and Monday army forces had pushed the a division of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) under the leadership of controversial commander Ibrahim Jadhran out of the Oil Crescent ports Sidra (Essider), Ras Lanuf, Zueitina and Brega.
Following the takeover, the army’s general command, led by Khalifa Haftar, immediately said it would hand over authority to the legally recognised PFG and the NOC.
“The NOC has officially been handed [authority over] the Oil Crescent ports. We have given instructions to lift force majeure and start production [at fields connected to the oil terminals]”, NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanallah declared from Zueitina port Wednesday morning.
His delegation was received at the facility by Muftah al-Magarief’s, whom authorities in eastern Libya appointed regional commander of the PFG in April.
In a statement Tuesday Sanallah had welcomed the army takeover. “I hope this marks beginning of new phase of cooperation and coexistence between Libya’s factions…and end to use of blockade as political tactic” Sanallah said in the statement.
NOC subsidiary AGOCO and joint venture company Zueitina Oil – both of which operate in the Oil Crescent – expressed their readiness to comply with NOC instructions and start work immediately.
In immediate application of the NOC ruling, the port of Ras Lanuf is shipping its first crude in years. On Thursday two vessels docked there and at Brega port – which has been in use throughout most of the port closure for domestic shipments – to lift over 1.2 million barrels of crude oil.
Army chief Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar had reassured oil sector stakeholders that the military development would not compromise their interests. “I will make sure the Army does not interfere with the oil business, which is a civilian matter. The Army complied with its national duty in liberating the ports”, Haftar said.
For the Tripoli-based Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord, which vehemently protested the Army takeover, has since lowered its tone. In a statement on Tuesday GNA Prime minister Faiez Serraj emphasised the importance of national unity.
“I will not accept to govern a part of Libya or to wage war against another part of the country,” Serraj said.
His deputy Ahmed Maiteeg joined Serraj’s call for unity. “The PM’s statement reflects the spirit of consensus within the Presidency Council” Maiteeg said on Wednesday. “What is happening in Libya now is part of the solution to the political crisis” he added.
Benghazi-based NOC head Naji al-Maghrebi said he would meet with Sanallah somewhere in eastern Libya in the coming week to discuss an array of subjects and form a technical team to assess damages at the oil facilities. Maghrebi was appointed NOC Chairman by the eastern authorities last year, but according to a deal reached at the start of July he agreed to cede the chairmanship to Sanallah and to remain member of the NOC management committee. The deal has since been questioned, buy now that Sanallah has enthusiastically welcomed the army’s takeover the unification of the rival NOC managements seems assured.
Meanwhile UN Special Envoy Martin Kobler travelled to Misrata on Thursday to hold talks with local representatives.