By Sami Zaptia.
London, 15 February 2019:
The United States Government yesterday expressed its concern over the military tensions in the south of Libya.
It called for all the protagonists in the south to find a compromise solution to enable the National Oil Corporation (NOC) to resume oil product at the Sharara oilfield.
The statement walked a fine line by failing to explicitly support or condemn either Khalifa Hafter’s Libyan National Army (LNA) or the Faiez Serraj-led Presidency Council and Government of National Accord forces.
By calling for “all parties to urgently establish a mutually acceptable security arrangement” it left it open for Libyans to reach their own compromise.
But the statement is not good news for Hafter’s enemies. It clearly left the door wide open for Hafter and his LNA. It is a recognition of his traction, effectiveness and de facto power on the ground.
But it is also a recognition of the lack of effectiveness of the Serraj-aligned forces on the ground – at least in the south.
The statement is pragmatic. It was concerned more with the practicality of urgently resuming oil production rather than the political legitimacy of the contesting military forces.
However, the statement was good news for the NOC and its Chairman Mustafa Sanalla. It reconfirmed the exclusive legitimate role of the NOC – but for the benefit of all Libyans.
It also reaffirmed its recognition of the Serraj PC/GNA and the importance of jointly countering terrorism.
The full statement read:
“The United States is concerned by ongoing tensions in southern Libya, which have prolonged the closure of critical oil infrastructure and deprived all Libyans of vital economic resources.
We call on all parties to urgently establish a mutually acceptable security arrangement that will guarantee the safety of National Oil Corporation (NOC) workers and allow oil production at the al-Sharara oil field to resume as quickly as possible for the benefit of all Libyans.
Libya’s oil facilities, production, and revenues belong to the Libyan people.
We reiterate that the NOC must be allowed to resume its work unhindered and that these vital Libyan resources must remain under the exclusive control of the NOC and the sole oversight of the Government of National Accord, as outlined in UN Security Council Resolutions 2259 (2015), 2278 (2016), and 2362 (2017).
The United States reaffirms its unwavering commitment to stand with all Libyans in our shared fight against terrorism. We welcome ongoing efforts to ensure that ISIS-Libya and al-Qa’ida are denied safe haven in southern Libya.
We remain committed to using all available tools to sustain pressure against terrorist groups, at the request of and in coordination with the Government of National Accord.”
The U.S. Government is still to make any official comment on the statement by the PC/GNA claiming a joint airstrike against Al-Qaeda near Ubari on Wednesday.
AFRICOM has denied that it carried out any airstrikes in Libya in 2019, but sources at the PC/GNA are sticking to the PC/GNA’s original statement.