Mustafa Sanalla, the chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation, has called for “concrete steps” to protect the country’s oil assets as fresh fighting that has erupted near crucial oil facilities threatened to reverse recent increases in the Opec member’s output.
Forces from eastern Libya carried out on Saturday air strikes around the oil ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf on the country’s Mediterranean coast in order to dislodge a militant group that tried to seize control of the export facilities on Friday.
Mr Sanalla said in a statement that the oil infrastructure “should not become a bargaining chip” in the country’s political conflicts.
The fighting puts at risk the recent doubling of Libya’s output to 700 barrels per day after the resumption of production and exports from these and other sites that had been previously blockaded by the country’s warring factions.
Libya’s production is still well below the 1.6 million barrels per day it used to produce before the 2011 uprising, which overthrew Muammer Gaddafi, the former dictator, and left the country fragmented and under the control of a mosaic of militias.
A source close to NOC told the Financial Times that crude loadings from Es Sider and Ras Lanuf were considered to be normal and that “there is no obstacle as of now that will halt exports”, but that there was a lot of uncertainty about how the situation would develop.
The air raids around the terminals were carried out by forces under the control of General Khalifa Haftar, the military strongman who controls eastern Libya and who gained control over these and two other oil facilities in September, enabling the increase in output. The strikes started on Friday and continued into Saturday, according to local residents cited by Reuters news agency.
Mr Haftar’s forces had withdrawn on Friday from the two ports after the Benghazi Defence Brigades, a rival faction, invaded two facilities. It was not clear whether the group is now in control of the facilities. The BDB was defeated in Benghazi by Mr Haftar’s forces and tried before to attack his troops in the centre of the country close to the oil facilities.
A spokesman for the self-styled Libyan National Army of Mr Haftar said they pulled out on Friday to avoid damaging the terminals.
Libya remains split between rival governments in the east and west of the country. Efforts to forge a deal between Mr Haftar and the United Nations-brokered government based in Tripoli in western Libya have yet to succeed.
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