By Sami Zaptia.
Malta, 22 December 2018:
Despite Faiez Serraj, the head of Libya’s Presidency Council and Government of National Accord, reaching an apparent agreement with the Fezzan Anger Movement to reopen the Sharara oilfield, Libya’s state National Oil Corporation has maintained the force majeure status on the oilfield.
The NOC had declared force majeure on the field on Monday 17 December. Faiez Serraj arrived at Sharara on Wednesday 19 December and agreed a deal on the same day. The Fezzan Anger Movement confirmed this yesterday.
However, their interpretation of the deal was that their demands would be to divided and dealt with in two parts.
The urgent part of their demands would be fulfilled within a week, and the other part of their demands would be met within 45 days. This timeline was apparently requested Sarraj.
Moreover, according to the Fezzan Anger Movement, they would remain in occupation of the oilfield and will not leave it until their demands are met within the agreed deadline.
The Fezzan Anger Movement said that they will monitor the steps that will be taken by the Sarraj administration in implementing their demands through a follow-up committee.
Hence, while Serraj and the Fezzan Anger Movement may consider from their point of view that the Sharara closure has cone to an end, the NOC considers the oilfield still unsafe for its staff to return to.
Moreover, while the NOC recognizes the existence of genuine grievances for the people of the south of Libya, it objects to the use of oilfield closures as the method of pursuing these genuine grievances.
Moreover, it objects to setting a precedent or appearing to set a precedent by rewarding blockades. Worse still, it objects to the state being blackmailed into paying a ransom as a result of blockades.
The Sharara oilfield incident has further revealed a split between the NOC and the Serraj government, with the NOC playing bad cop and pursuing a hardline while Serraj seems to be taking a softer approach.
The NOC was so concerned by the Serraj approach that it released a statement on Thursday.
In it it said that “In an effort to resolve the crisis at the Sharara oil field, which remains closed, National Oil Corporation (NOC) chairman, Eng. Mustafa Sanalla has stressed that the corporation is working hard to find a common solution and create appropriate security conditions to guarantee worker safety at the field.
“NOC needs real solutions to oil sector problems, not quick temporary fixes that will only encourage further blockades and endanger the lives of NOC staff. We also need an approach that identifies and aims to tackle the critical problems of the South,” said Sanalla.
“New budget funds should be allocated to raise human development indicators, providing health services to prevent infant mortality due to prevalent diseases, address scorpion antivenin and water shortages, improve access to education, as well as help develop local economic opportunities.”
It added that the NOC “is fully prepared to support the government, the entity responsible for development programs in the South, and to play its role in generating the revenues necessary to finance such initiatives across the country.”
The “NOC fully supports the South, our employees from local communities, and all other law-abiding citizens that want, and deserve, the most basic services, levels of opportunity and economic justice. Any agreement must raise living standards of the people of the South but not reward those that seek through violence to achieve their own personal aims. This will take Libya down a precarious path,” added the chairman.
Sanalla warned of the catastrophic consequences for both the oil sector and country of ransom payments to the armed group occupying the Sharara oil field, adding that because of the violent threats made by the armed group, and their implication in other criminal activity, force majeure would not be lifted at the field until alternative security arrangements were in place.
“We cannot put our workers in a position where they are vulnerable in future to further use of violence by these people,” Sanalla said.
The NOC meanwhile, welcomed the international community’s condemnation of the forced shutdown of the Sharara oilfield, including calls by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya and the United States State Department that the “nation’s wealth must not be used for bargaining” and for the “immediate and unconditional withdrawal of armed elements in the area.”