Op-Ed: Head of official Libyan NOC makes statement on oil port control

Posted Jun 28, 2018 by Ken Hanly
The head of the official National Oil Corporation (NOC) in the Financial Times writes about the decision of General Khalifa Haftar to turn over control of the two oil ports of Es Sidra and Ras Lanuf to the rival Benghazi National Oil Corporation.
General Khalifa Haftar on May 17  2014.
General Khalifa Haftar on May 17, 2014.
-, AFP/File
Terminals changed hands earlier
In September of 2016 Haftar had wrested control of the two oil ports from Ibrahim Jadhran who was head of the Petroleum Facilities Guard. At that time, Haftar agreed to turn over control to the official NOC headquartered in Tripoli even though he does not recognize the Govenrment of National Accord with which it is associated. While at first reaction to Haftar's almost bloodless seizure of the terminals was negative, most critics were appeased when Haftar turned over the terminals to the official NOC allowing shipments to resume. Jadhran was unpopular with many as he had kept the ports closed for a long period as leverage to strike a bargain with the Libyan government. No doubt Haftar managed to come to an agreement with the NOC as to the division of revenues, a division he now appears to want improved in his favor and that of the eastern HoR government.
Recent events at two main oil terminals
About two weeks ago, Jadhran with a number of allies took back control of the two ports while Haftar was busy trying to capture the eastern city of Derna. However, Jadhran and his allies were recently driven from the two ports by Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA).
However, this time Haftar did not return the two crucial ports to the control of the official NOC but to a rival Benghazi-based NOC not under control of the recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). Sanallah notes: "Late last week the LNA retook Sidra and Ras Lanuf, but it then announced the transfer of the terminals to an illegitimate entity based in the east. This so-called parallel institution, which operates out of Benghazi and has also named itself the “National Oil Corporation”, has for years attempted to take control of Libyan oil, including arranging illicit exports of crude. Its activities have been outlawed by a series of UN Security Council resolutions."
Move could lead to division of country
Sanallah argues that dividing oil control makes it more likely that Libya will suffer a political division as well. It also opens the oil industry to corruption and plunder ruining the hopes of millions of Libyans. Sanallah praised the past actions of Haftar and the LNA in keeping the ports operational but then added: "However, Mr Haftar has abandoned any claim to custodianship of the Libyan national interest by deciding this week to renege on the commitments he made at the recent summit in Paris to discuss elections and hand over the oil terminals to his tribal allies.To give up on the NOC, in the face of this assault, would be to give up on Libya. The law is on our side — and the rule of law hangs in the balance. To acquiesce to this seizure would set a dangerous precedent."
Sanallah concludes that forces of violence and repression have posed a question of the commitment of the international community's commitment to a rules-based system in Libya. He praised the joint statement of France, Italy, the UK and the US that reaffirmed their view that oil should remain under control of the Tripoli-based NOC.
The joint statement of France, Italy, UK and the US
The four countries state that they are deeply concerned about "the announcement that the Ras Lanuf and Sidra oil fields and facilities will be transferred to the control of an entity other than the legitimate National Oil Corporation." Note that the four cannot, unlike Sanallah who says straight out that General Khalifa Haftar did this, cannot bring themselves to mention Haftar's name. The joint statement cannot even put down the name of the rival oil company. This just seems ridiculous.
The statement then cites the UN Security Council Resolutions governing the issue: "These vital Libyan resources must remain under the exclusive control of the legitimate National Oil Corporation and the sole oversight of the Government of National Accord (GNA), as outlined in UN Security Council Resolutions 2259 (2015), 2278 (2016), and 2362 (2017). UN Security Council Resolution 2362 (2017) condemns attempts to illicitly export petroleum, including crude oil and refined petroleum products, from Libya by parallel institutions which are not acting under the authority of the GNA."
The statement calls for all armed actors to immediately cease hostilities and withdraw from oil installations. All armed actors who undermine Libya's peace, security and stability will be held to account. Does this mean that Haftar will be held to account for the siege of Derna and must withdraw now? Of course not. This is just toothless rhetoric. There is not even the threat of force to ensure the demands are carried out. We will see if the rhetoric has any teeth if the eastern NOC tries to ship oil independently of the NOC. Will the US or other countries stop the ships as happened with the Morning Glory?