(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
Rogue militias loyal to General Khalifa Haftar took over oil terminals in Libya’s oil crescent region.
The oil terminals were seized by Haftar’s men over the weekend, putting the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in grave danger of losing control over the country. This move could potentially give Haftar a powerful voice when it comes to negotiating Libya’s future.
Haftar’s violent takeover of the oil terminals could jeopardize the GNA’s attempts at returning Libya’s oil production to the same volume it was exporting before the 2011 uprising.
On Sunday, soldiers loyal to Haftar took control of the Sidra and the Ras Lanuf oil terminals from the Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) led by Ibrahim Jadhran.
After taking over the terminals, forces loyal to Haftar then moved onto the Ajdabiya and Zueitina oil terminals, forcing the PFG out of most of the land they controlled.
Some reports say that western forces intended to provide the PFG with combat training in order for them to be able to ward off such attacks.
Haftar’s forces appear to have ambushed the PFG, causing them to flee their posts in a hurry and leave behind their weapons.
This is the first incident where violence has broken out between the GNA and Haftar. The rogue general has always rejected the authority of the UN-backed GNA and has been demanding more power.
The GNA has spoken out against Haftar’s attacks, calling on all its supporters to it to defeat Haftar’s forces, however, no effort of preparation for a counter attack has been reported.
The GNA said that “hopes for stability in the country have been dashed” and that forces must come together to protect Libya from this “flagrant aggression”.
The Haftar-backed eastern parliament, known as the House of Representatives (HoR), said that the reopening of the oil terminals will take place as soon as possible. Abdullah Al-Thani spoke on behalf of the HoR saying, “we will work on the oil ports resuming work as soon as possible so as to guarantee all Libyans a decent life.”
Haftar’s forces said they have been preparing for this takeover for months.
Ali Al-Hassi, a spokesman for the PFG, denied the takeover of Sidra and Ras Lanuf, however, his claim was soon proven false when images aired on local news channels showing the takeover of the terminals.
Sidra and Ras Lanuf not only have a 220,000 barrel per day oil refinery, but also a petrochemical complex, a military and civil airport, oil company buildings and are home to about 25,000 residents.
Martin Kobler, the UN’s special envoy to Libya, said the violence needs to end and that the GNA must be recognized as “the sole executive authority in Libya”.
Kobler said, “attacks on the oil terminals further threaten the stability and lead to a greater division of the country. They further restrict the oil exports and add to people’s suffering.”
“I urge all parties to avoid any damage to the oil facilities. Natural resources belong to all Libyans and preserving oil infrastructure is in the national interest.”