By Chase Lacy
Rabat- The Libyan National Army, commanded by renegade General Khalifa Haftar, is handing over the Sidra and Ras Lanuf oil terminals to Libya’s eastern government’s National Oil Corporation (NOC).
The transfer is regarded as “illegal” by the NOC of the internationally recognized government based in Tripoli, in western Libya.
The head of the Benghazi NOC, Faraj Said, said they are preparing to issue instructions for oil companies to begin operations.
However, there is serious uncertainty about who will buy the oil produced under the eastern government’s control. In 2015, the eastern government, based in Tobruk 150 kilometers from Egypt, failed in an attempt to sell 300,000 barrels. No buyers, banks, or insurers were willing to conduct business with the Benghazi NOC, due to the legal risk of cooperating with an unrecognized government.
The UN Security Council and Western powers have passed resolutions that recognize the Tripoli NOC as the sole entity that can market and sell Libyan oil.
Ahmed Mismari, spokesman of the LNA, said on television, “All the oil terminals controlled by LNA are being handed over to the National Oil Corporation dependent on the provisional government that is headed by Faraj al-Hassi.”
Mismari also said that no tankers may dock at eastern ports without the permission of the NOC entity in Benghazi. He cited the transfer of the ports to the NOC as a measure to prevent the funding of militias. Mismari specifically called out “Chadian mercenaries” as some of the fighters that purportedly fought alongside Ibrahim Jadhran, who is sympathetic to the Tripoli government.
Jadhran’s Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) had controlled the terminals from the overthrow of the late Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 until September 2016, when Haftar’s Libyan National Army seized them.
Earlier this month, Jadhran retook the facilities from the LNA, however the PFG and allies could not retain the terminals when the LNA launched a counteroffensive.
The closure of the ports this month has resulted in a loss of 450,000 barrels per day (bpd), from a total of a little over 1 million bpd.
Libya, since the fall of Gaddafi in 2011, has undergone successive turmoils. Khalifa Haftar and the Tobruk-based government control the majority of eastern Libya, in opposition to the internationally recognised government based in Tripoli. Huge swaths of the country are still controlled by local militias, and parts are controlled by ISIS.