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article imageIncreasing export of Libyan oil demands agreement from tribes

By Ken Hanly     Jul 22, 2016 in Politics
Benghazi - Tribes who control eastern oilfields said any agreement between Ibrahim Jodhran, head of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), and UN envoy Martin Kobler to reopen oil exporting ports does not cover their areas of oil production and pumping.
Yesterday, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Martin Kobler flew to the eastern oil port of Ras Lanauf to meet with Jodhran. Kobler appeared happy to meet with him since he supports the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and would like to see the oil ports he controls exporting oil once again. Jodhran cost the Libyan economy billions by keeping the ports closed for extended periods over disputes with the government for better terms.
In 2013, Jodhran set up a Cyrenaica government with its own cabinet. He also established a separate oil company and tried to export crude oil through the company. The tanker Morning Glory was intercepted by the U.S. and its cargo unloaded in the western part of Libya. Few details were given of the talks but Kobler welcomed Jodhran's backing of the Presidency Council (PC) and the GNA. Jodhran is a strong opponent of the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar. The LNA is the armed forces of the House of Representatives (HoR) government of PM Abdullah Al-Thinni.
The tribes who control the eastern oilfields have formed a Supreme Council for the Wahat Oil, Gas and Water Basin areas. The UN, the international community, and the GNA are anxious to quickly ramp up Libya's oil production and exports. Kobler met Jodhran to further arrangements to open the Ras Lanauf and Es Sidre ports that the PFG control. Increased exports would generate badly needed revenue for the GNA. There was an agreement reached between the two rival National Oil Companies (NOC) to merge, but the HoR government has rejected the deal unless certain conditions are met.
However, opening the ports will be of little use unless there is a steady supply of oil coming in from the Wahat Basin fields. Kobler had mentioned that the recent Tunis talks with Libyan Dialogue members had focused on people's concerns and those included oil production. Kobler tweeted: "Glad to hear support of #PC/#GNA from Ibrahim Jadhran and tribal leaders. #RasLanuf #Libya " The tribal leaders that Kobler mentions obviously did not include those from the Supreme Council of those tribes who control the oil fiellds supplying the ports.
Jonathan Winer, the U.S. special envoy for Libya, tweeted that Libya needed to pump oil to generate revenue that could pay salaries. UK ambassador Peter Millet told a UK House of Lords committee at the end of June that the plan was for Libya to increase production from less than 200,000 barrels a day now to around 700,000 barrels a day. This is still considerably less than production just before Gadaffi was overthrown, which was about 1.5 million barrels a day. However, as Millet noted the main obstacles to increased oil production were not technical but political and asked significantly " are people in control of pipelines ready to permit it ...and at what price.?
A statement from the Supreme Council makes clear the relevance of Milltet's remark. It said that "any political agreement between the UN Representative Martin Kobler with any armed groups regarding the commencement of oil exports is a non-agreement and does not represent the Basin area and its inhabitants and does not represent an agreement to restart of production from the oilfields situated within the area of the (seven) Wahat Basin." The statement went on to say that the Council would not be committed to any agreement reached without its own knowledge and consent.
The Council also demanded that any agreement must have the permission of the Al-Thinni government of the HoR and the eastern National Oil Company associated with the HoR. There is no mention of the agreement between the two rival oil companies to merge or of the new merged oil company. Just to make the need for the Council to be involved absolutely clear, the statement went on to say that those controlling the export terminals do not in any way represent the production, manufacturing and pumping areas. The statement concludes: ‘‘If Mr Kobler wishes to talk about the restart of Libyan oil production, he has to communicate with the Supreme Council of the Basin’.’
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