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From sublime to ridiculous - Richard Galustian

Khalifa Haftar. Photo: Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters

Khalifa Haftar. Photo: Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters

The UN-backed Libyan government has warned that any attempt by the east (Tobruk) to export oil independently will be stopped.

“Exports by parallel institutions are illegal and will fail as they have failed in the past,” said the head of Libya’s Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC), Mustafa Sanalla.

What humbug.

The officially appointed (by Parliament) of Libyan National Army (LNA) leader Khalifa Haftar, announced on June 25 that all future revenues from the eastern oil ports which it controls will be handed to the eastern government administration in Tobruk/Benghazi after the LNA recaptured from Ibrahim Jadran’s militia in 10 days of deadly fighting with the militia. Jadran himself is said to have fled to Turkey.

The parliament in east Libya made a similar attempt to bypass Tripoli in April 2016 but their planned sale of 300,000 barrels per day of crude was stopped by the UN Security Council.

“UN Security Council resolutions are very clear – oil facilities, production and exports must remain under the exclusive control of [Tripoli-based] NOC and the sole oversight of the [internationally-recognised] government of National Accord [GNA],” Mustafa Sanalla said.

Many UN Security Council resolutions are wrong, and as far as Libyans are concerned, the UN is showing extreme bias in favour of extremists and the Muslim Brotherhood in Tripoli.

The UN-selected GNA headed by Faez Serraj, the so-called Libyan government recognised by the UN and EU, is a sham. They say: “We are confident that the GNA and our international partners will take the necessary steps to stop all exports in breach of international law.”

The Tripoli-based NOC warned it would sue any international company that tries to buy oil from the eastern authorities and that no purchase contract signed with them would be honoured.

“There is only one legitimate NOC, recognised by the international community and Opec,” Sanalla said, in reference to a rival NOC set up in the main eastern city of Benghazi.

Haftar took the surprise decision to hand control of the eastern export terminals to the Benghazi-based NOC instead of the internationally recognised Tripoli-based State oil firm after his forces suffered heavy losses fighting to recapture the oil crescent.

Haftar’s forces took control of the Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra terminals in June and more recently took the Brega terminal.

Haftar’s decision dealt a major blow to international efforts to preserve Libya’s unity through their Tripoli-based UN creation, the GNA.

Haftar has full backing from neighbouring Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. He is showing his other face, that of a leader who may have failed to impose himself as a political or military reality outside of Cyrenaica (east Libya) nevertheless explicitly saying now for the first time he wants to break the centralised oil revenue scheme in Tripoli.

The NOC chief called on Haftar to reverse his decision for the sake of unity.

“The LNA leadership has missed an excellent opportunity to act in the national interest,” Sanalla said.

As far as Libyans are concerned, the UN is showing extreme bias in favour of extremists and the Muslim Brotherhood in Tripoli

Libya’s economy relies heavily on oil, with production at 1.6 million barrels per day under Gaddafi.

The Nato-sponsored and inspired uprising of 2011 saw production fall to about 20 per cent of that level, before recovering to more than one million barrels per day by the end of 2017.

The fighting between Jadran’s militias and the LNA pushed NOC to suspend – without saying how they will physically do so – exports from the eastern oil terminals.

On the migrants issue, it is interesting to note that Malta has stopped migrant NGO boats docking here for good. Some EU leaders are finally waking up. Malta and Italy are the first.

Field Marshall Haftar has said all extremists have been eradicated by the LNA from Derna, hitherto a long-held terrorist stronghold. Haftar has also made it clear that he absolutely refuses to accept either Serraj or the GNA to have any participation in a new Libya.

This announcement came about as France’s Foreign Minister is about to visit Cairo. It should be remembered that Egyptian officials have not hidden their scepticism about “French aggressiveness” in Libya.

In mid-June, the Egyptian Air Force carried out some of the airstrikes to help Haftar’s Libyan National Army retake the terminals of the oil crescent.

The UK, French, Italian and US governments have issued a joint statement on Libya. It starts: “The international community will hold those who undermine Libya’s peace, security, and stability to account.”

A huge arrogant mistake, one of a numerous number made by the UN over the years.

The governments of France, Italy, the UK and the US dictate, in a colonial imperialist manner, that 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, as outlined in UN Security Council resolutions.

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.

Well, most Libyans’ response to that, particularly in East Libya, is “go away”.

Just after US-France-Italy-UK joint statement, France took a solo initiative by sending its ambassador to Libya, Brigitte Curmi, with a high-level delegation, to the LNA HQ to reason with Haftar and “to discuss regional and international developments”.

Reliable sources report that Haftar was emphatic: no Serraj; no GNA; no Muslim Brotherhood. No former terrorists can be involved in a new Libya.

Haftar supporters in Benghazi last week put up banners with crossed-out photos, writing graffiti style over faces of Faiz Sarraj, Ahmed Mateeg and Mustafa Sanallah which read: “Turkey and Qatar agents.” Also graffiti of Sanallah poster photos alone that read: “UK agent, terrorist backer, Muslim Brotherhood agent.”

Alistair Burt, Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as well as being Minister of State at the Department for International Development, visited Tripoli in April, meeting only the extremists and the UN ‘Vichy’ created GNA government of so-called UN-appointed Prime Minister Faez Serraj.

It is important to underscore the delusional description on the UK FCO website, that his visit described future opportunities for British companies to do business in Libya. Burt stated what tremendous potential Britain could expect in future from Libya, a joke for many reasons, too numerous to explain.

An insane vision of the future of Libyan-Anglo relationship held by totally unrealistic politicians, bureaucrats and British businessmen who do not even understand the degree of hatred of most Libyan people towards Britain above all other Western countries – pure self-delusional insanity; certainly taking the UK’s approach to Libya from the sublime to the ridiculous. To talk today of trade with Libya at this time is quite simply farcical.

So with this in mind, it is not difficult to digest the latest news from the incompetent lame duck British Prime Minister who announced in June, during what is a raging civil war in Libya, that she has approved the appointment of a ‘Trade Envoy to Libya’, Sir Henry Bellingham.

Richard Galustian is a political and security advisor based in MENA countries for nearly 40 years.

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