Western nations urge Libya general to give up oil terminals

The US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain said the UN-brokered government based in the capital, Tripoli, is the “sole steward of these resources.”

BENGHAZI // The United States and five Western nations have called upon forces loyal to a Libyan general to withdraw from three eastern oil terminals seized this week.

The US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain said the UN-brokered government based in the capital, Tripoli, is the “sole steward of these resources,” adding that “Libya’s oil belongs to the Libyan people.”

“We also call on all forces to avoid any action that could damage Libya’s energy infrastructure or further disrupt its exports,” said the joint statement, issued late on Monday. It also warned against “illicit oil exports.”

Forces led by General Khalifa Haftar seized control of Ras Lanuf, Al Sidra on Sunday and Zueitina on Monday. Gen Haftar is allied with Libya’s parliament, which is based in the country’s far east and has not approved the UN-backed government, in part because of differences over his future role in the country.

Libya has been split between rival authorities based in the east and in Tripoli, in the west after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Muammar Qaddafi.

Parliament Speaker Agila Saleh said Gen Haftar’s move was by “popular demand” and was authorised by Libya’s official institutions. He said Gen Haftar’s forces “liberated the fields and the terminals from the occupiers and those hindering exports,” referring to militia commander Ibrahim Jadhran, who commands a force known as the Petroleum Facilities Guard.

Jadhran’s militia seized the oil terminals more than two years ago and has tried to export illegally in the past. It is now allied with the UN-backed government, and UN envoy Martin Kobler brokered a deal with Jadhran in July to resume exports.

Libya’s conflict has crippled its once vibrant oil sector, denying the country an estimated US$100 billion (Dh367bn) in revenues over the past three years. According to official figures, Libya exported a total of 146 million barrels of oil in 2015, down from 531 million three years earlier.

Mr Saleh said Gen Haftar’s forces will withdraw once the Tripoli-based, state-run, and internationally-recognised National Oil Corporation “assumes its responsibilities” in managing oil resources. The oil authority had rejected Mr Kobler’s deal with Jadhran.

On Tuesday Italy said it was to build a 50-bed military field hospital to treat injured Libyan forces fighting for the Tripoli government.

The hospital will be built at Misurata airport and will be protected by a unit of 100 troops.

“We are planning to deploy around 300 people, 65 doctors and nurses, 135 logistics staff and 100 for the protection of the hospital,” defence minister Roberta Pinotti told a hearing of the parliamentary committee for defence and foreign affairs.

A C-27 transport plane is to be stationed at the airport in case of a need for emergency evacuations and an Italian warship will provide further security backup from just off the Libyan coast, Ms Pinotti said.

The minister said the Italian contingent would be operational immediately but gave no timetable for having the hospital up and running.

Italy was acting on a request made by the tripoli government, known as the Government of National Accord (GNA) on August 9, she added.

Italy, which has offered to lead a UN-backed peace force into its former colony when conditions on the ground allow, has recently evacuated and treated a number of GNA-loyal fighters who suffered serious injuries during an offensive against ISIL in the city of Sirte.

* Associated Press and Agence France-Presse

Published: September 13, 2016 04:00 AM


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