(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
The US and five European countries are calling on General Khalifa Haftar to withdraw his forces from the oil terminals he seized earlier this week, according to a statement released by the six governments late Monday.
The UN-backed Libyan unity Government (GNA) has called on its forces to stop Haftar, who has posed a direct threat to the authority of GNA since its arrival in Tripoli in March.
The western governments said the GNA is the “sole steward of these resources,” and 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 statement.
Agila Saleh, the speaker for the parliament based in Tobruk, said that Haftar’s forces conducted their takeover based on “popular demand” and the authority of some of Libya’s institutions. Hafter’s men “liberated the fields and the terminals from the occupiers and those hindering exports,” said Saleh.
Haftar had seized the oil fields and terminals from the GNA loyal Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) led by commander Ibrahim Jadhran.
The PFG, who took over the oilfields and terminals over two years ago, were in the process of reviving Libya’s oil production and exports after shutting down the process in order to protect the oil terminals from being attacked by rogue militia groups.
In July, the UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, brokered a deal with PFG leader Ibrahim Jedhran to reopen the oil terminals and begin exporting again.
The Libya’s state oil company, the National Oil Corporation (NOC), rejected Kobler’s deal with the PFG. Saleh said Haftar’s forces will retreat only if the oil company “assumes its responsibilities” in overseeing and operating Libya’s oil facilities.
The ongoing clashes and violence in Libya has resulted in a sharp drop in the country’s exports, which has devastated the country’s economy. Ambushes like the one Haftar has just pulled off continue to cripple Libya, further jeopardizing its future and the security of its people.