Haftar hands control of key Libya oil facilities to allies in east

#LibyaCrisis

Libyan commander's announcement came just hours after his army said it had driven a rival militia out of the country's oil crescent

Libya's economy relies heavily on oil, with production at 1.6 million barrels per day under Gaddafi (AFP)
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Tuesday 26 June 2018 11:34 UTC
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Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar announced on Monday the handover of oil installations under the control of his forces to his allies in the east Libya administration after retaking them from militias.

His announcement came just hours after his Libyan National Army said it had driven a rival militia out of the country's oil crescent and regained "full control" of the area.

Libya has been wracked by violence since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi, with two rival authorities vying for control.

A UN-backed unity government based in Tripoli has struggled to assert its authority outside the west while Haftar has been the military figurehead for the government based in Tobruk.

Libya's oil facilities are of fundamental importance to the struggling Libyan economy. Haftar's spokesman said that the oil facilities would be administered by the national oil company based in the east.

"All the oil installations controlled by Libyan National Army are being handed over to the National Oil Company [NOC] dependent on the provisional eastern government that is headed by Faraj al-Hassi," said Haftar's spokesman Ahmad al-Mesmari.

The LNA announced last Thursday it had recaptured the Ras Lanuf and al-Sidra terminals, a week after they were seized by armed groups led by militia leader Ibrahim Jadhran, but said operations in the area were unfinished.



On Monday, LNA spokesman Khalifa al-Abidi said "mopping up operations for enemy holdouts" had been completed.

Medics have said 16 LNA members were killed in clashes while the number of dead on Jadhran’s side remains unknown.

Riccardo Fabiani, a geopolitical analyst at Energy Aspects, told Middle East Eye last week that Libya's oil output may be reduced by up to 40 percent as a result of the fighting.

"The ball is now in the NOC's court to carry out emergency repair work and resume production as quickly as possible, but some of the damage will probably take weeks if not months to be addressed," Fabiani said.

Jadhran's Petroleum Facilities Guard controlled the two key oil ports for years following Gaddafi’s 2011 NATO-backed ousting - but they were eventually forced out by the LNA in September 2016.

Mesmari, Haftar's spokesman, said oil revenues from the four terminals now under LNA control would be handed to the administration in the east supported by Haftar.

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In April 2016 Libya's eastern administration tried to bypass Tripoli and sell 300,000 barrels independently to no avail. "The Libyan representative to the UN and the Security Council had the cargo stopped," explained Libya analyst Jalel Harchaoui.

Up until now, the terminals have been managed by the National Oil Company (NOC), which is tied to Libya's internationally recognised government based in Tripoli.

Clashes between Jadhran's forces and the LNA in the oil crescent pushed the NOC on 14 June to suspend exports from terminals in the area, warning of billions of dollars in losses.

After visiting the Ras Lanuf terminal on Sunday, the NOC said violence had slashed oil production by almost half and cost billions of dollars in losses.

Harchaoui, the analyst, said Haftar's decision to hand control over to his allies in Tobruk was a "surprise".

"Only a few days ago Haftar was trying to speak like a national figure... today we are witnessing the opposite," he said.

Libya's economy relies heavily on oil, with production at 1.6m barrels per day under Gaddafi.

The 2011 uprising and power vacuum that followed, saw production fall to about 20 percent of that level, before recovering to more than one million barrels per day by the end of 2017.