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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Tension grows in Libya over control of oil crescent oil export ports

The 153 Infantry brigade of General Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) entered into the town of Zuetina on August 14th but stopped short of entering the oil terminal controlled by the rival militia of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG)

The PFG is headed by Ibrahim Jadhran an opponent of Haftar. Jadhran supports the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and has reached a deal with the government to open several oil ports including Zuetina. Haftar does not recognize the GNA nor its armed forces. According to a Libya Herald report there was a long four-lane-wide convoy with associated military and civilian vehicles that moved slowly into town. Photos are shown with the report. There were no reported clashes with the PFG. Recently, the French, Italian, Spanish, UK, German and U.S. governments all issued a statement warning that they were worried about increasing tensions at Zuetina.
The NOC in Tripoli told Reuters that the GNA will need to allocate funds to repair damage to infrastructure at some of the ports before plans to increase production by five-fold by the end of this year can be realized. Chairman, Mustafa Sanalla said: "If we receive around $1 billion, we can do a lot." However, without agreement with stakeholders such as Haftar and tribes loyal to him who control oil fields adjacent to the oil crescent ports such Es Sidre, Ras Lanuf, and Zuetina, there will be no oil exported. Now it seems that Haftar may be moving to take control of the ports themselves from his PFG opponents. This would give Haftar and the House of Representatives (HoR) government even more leverage in negotiating with the GNA.
recent tweet suggests that conflict could arrive soon: Unconfirmed #Reports Hafter gangs intend to attack #zwitina oil port next few hours @UNSMILibya @KoblerSRSG" As of the morning of August 14th there are no reports of clashes between the two groups as yet. The entry of the battalion into Zuetina was also announced by another tweet: " #Libya : 153th battalion of #LNA entering today in #Zueitina, 155km south of #Benghazi."
An earlier report claims that a member of the PFG was killed while driving a car with another fighter on an official mission. The PFG said that the shots came from Dignity Operation gangs. Dignity Operation was begun by Haftar in May of 2014 to clear Libya of any Islamists Haftar considers his opponents. Another fighter was injured in the confrontation and a third kidnapped.
The incident was apparently in the city of Ajdabia. The statement of the PFG read: “Dignity Operation is trying to repeat Benghazi’s atrocious scenario in Ajdabia and this incident could be the prompter of a never-ending conflict in Ajdabia. PFG is at the top level of self-constraint so that it does not get drifted into any conflict or division.” The conflict between the PFG and Haftar forces has grown since Haftar's militias now control the region's oil fields. They appear to intend on controlling not just the oil fields but now the ports.
According to the Libya Herald there has long been tension between locals and the PFG and the locals have been incensed that outsiders have shut down the port from time to time. However, Haftar may not be welcome either as he will insist on not exporting oil until he and the HoR government have an agreement satisfactory to them. The export terminal is a key employer in the town. Three years ago the locals became so upset with disruption by outsiders that they actually stormed the port and forced it to resume operations.


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