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article imageOp-Ed: Tripoli forces withdraw from near eastern Libya oil fields

By Ken Hanly     Mar 31, 2015 in Politics
Tripoli - The Third Force, a unit of the Tripoli-based General National Council (GNC) government has agreed to a ceasefire with Ibrahim Jadhran who commands forces guarding Es Sidra.
The Tripoli unit left the town of Bin Jawad just 30 kilometres west of Es Sidra. The unit had occupied the town since mid-December and used it as a base from which to launch attacks on Es Sidra. The Islamic State(IS) has gained recruits from other radical groups some of whom were to a degree allied with the Tripoli government. Now the group has taken control of the city of Sirte and Tripoli has launched a military action against them. The Third Force will now join battle against IS.
While Es Sidra, Libya's largest oil port is in an area controlled by the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR), based in Tobruk in eastern Libya, the forces of Ibrahim Jadhran still control the facility. Jadhran has always demanded more autonomy for eastern Libya and kept the main eastern oil ports from the central government for almost a year, a move that had a devastating effect on Libya's oil exports. Abdullah al-Thinni who is at present prime minister of the Tobruk government made a deal with Jadhran to open up the ports. At the time, Al Thinni was prime minister of the GNC government.
In March of 2014, Jadhran attempted to ship out oil outside of the jurisdiction of the Libyan National Oil Company. A freighter the Morning Glory escaped the then Libyan government but was eventually seized by the US and returned to the central government. Now Jadrhan, who tried to make the shipment, is loyal to the Tobruk government as is CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar, who was once subject to an arrest warrant for an attempted coup when Al-Thinni was prime minister of the transitional GNC government. Now as prime minister of the Tobruk government Al-Thinni instead of following up on the arrest warrant has made Haftar head of his armed forces.
A spokesperson for the GNC, Jamal Zubia, said that under the agreement for the Third Force to withdraw, Jhadran was to surrender the terminals to the National Oil Corporation and withdraw to the town of Ajdabiya. However, the eastern-based news agency LANA reports that Jadhran's forces remain in Es Sidra. The National Oil Company has tried to remain neutral during the conflict. Its headquarters are still in Tripoli. Another report also claimed that there had been an agreement but did not indicate whether either side had actually moved its troops.
A spokesperson for the Tobruk government denied their troops would leave the area and claimed that they had occupied the town of Bin Jawad after the Third Force had left. If this report is true, the Third Force move is less the result of an agreement and more a retreat. In any event, the move will allow exports to resume from the ports of Es Sidra and Ras Lanauf that had been closed since December because of the fighting.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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