Friday, April 8, 2016

Oil ports in eastern Libya may reopen

After being closed for a year, three eastern Libyan oil ports are now set to re-open. The positive development for the oil industry is taking place as the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) consolidates its power in Tripoli.

The Wall Street Journal reports that militia officials have announced the re-opening. Ali al-Hassi, spokesperson for the Petroleum Facilities Guard(PFG) said: “We are planning to reopen the ports. It’s under the control of the unity government now.” Ironically, the ports were closed after Ibrahim Jodhran or Jadhran head of the PFG militia refused to load any ships that were not registered with the rival National Oil Company of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR). Now the Tripoli-based neutral National Oil Company is cooperating with the GNA and has apparently broken off any relationships with the rival General National Congress (GNC) based in Tripoli. The three ports are Es Sider, Ras Lanuf, and Zuetina. The GNA confirmedthe re-opening was planned:
Mr. Sarraj’s cabinet, called the Government of National Reconciliation, confirmed on its Facebook page that the “guards [protecting] the installations had agreed to open ports and work immediately” under its control.Faiez Serraj is the Prime Minister of the GNA.
The oil facilities are not guarded by the Libyan National Army(LNA) under commander in chief Khalifa Haftar but by Jodhran's militia group. Jodhran is an opponent of Haftar. When the oil facilities were under attack by the Islamic State, the Libyan National Army did not help defend the facilities. It was left solely to the PFG. The only air support against the IS came from the opposing GNC government.
Jodhran was named commander of the PFG in 2012 after the overthrow of Gadaffi. He became unhappy with the central government, accusing it of corruption and incompetence. He demanded more autonomy for the eastern Cyrenaica area:In 2013, Jadhran set up the Cyrenaica Political Bureau and secured control of eastern ports, namely Sidra, Ras Lanuf and Zueitina.[3] In August 2013, Jathran issued the “Ras Lanuf Declaration”, the declaration asks for the right to “govern our own affairs”.[1] By October 2013, Jathran’s militia , the Cyrenaica Self-Defense Force, was estimated to number 17,500 men.[1]In 2014, Jodhran attempted to illegally sell oil excluding the central government and National Oil Company. The MV Morning Glory was loaded with crude at Sidra and evaded a government blockade. US forces took control of the ship on March 16, 2014 and returned it to the central government. U.S. Ambassador at the time, Deborah Jones, said that Jodhran's action were a "theft from the Libyan people."
Jodhran now supports the GNA and pledges to open the ports. His separatist leanings appear to have disappeared for now. In spite of trying to steal oil and costing Libya billions in lost exports and production he has been transformed into one of the "good guys". While the GNA appears to be gaining support in the west and to some extent in the south, the situation in the east remains uncertain. While the GNA has the support of Jodhran there is not a peep out of the HoR. Haftar will not be pleased with the actions of Jodhran. At present, there is a meeting going on in Marj where Haftar has his headquarters:"‏@LibyaschannelEN Meeting of #GNA critics in #Marj today w/ boycotting deputy PM Ali Gitrani, members of HoR's Sovereignty bloc & some eastern mayors: sources "Haftar could be planning for the HoR to hand over power to a military tribunal. This would be risky. The UN would not recognize the tribunal and he would need to seize the oil ports in order to finance his new Libyan government. If he did decide to do this there could be fighting in the west as well between militia loyal to Haftar and those loyal to the GNA. If the GNA allows Haftar to remain as head of the Libyan National Army, the GNA will implode as Islamists within the GNA rebel or leave.

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