Libya’s state National Oil Corporation (NOC) expressed concern last week about the increased militarization of its eastern oil sites.
It reported that ‘‘mercenaries’’ at Ras Lanuf petrochemical complex, Zueitina oil port and Zallah field are ‘‘a threat and may lead to the destruction of the Libyan people’s sole source of revenue’’.
It said it is deeply concerned about the ‘‘continuing militarization of its oil facilities and the heavy presence of foreign mercenaries at various oil fields and ports in the east and south of the country’’.
It reported that the number of mercenaries at the Ras Lanuf petrochemical complex has recently increased. It said that their presence constitutes ‘‘a threat to the safety of workers’’ and industrial facilities within the complex.
It also reported that there are also ‘‘a large number of military personnel billeted in worker housing inside the residential area of Ras Lanuf town, in a flagrant violation of the law, privacy and security of worker housing’’.
Furthermore, in what it referred to as ‘‘another blatant violation of the law, on Sunday, July 26, 2020, (Libya’s state-paid) Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) forcibly seized large quantities of jet fuel from fuel storage tanks at 103 Field airstrip belonging to Zueitina Oil Company. The fuel was then taken offsite in two fully laden trucks’’.
The NOC also reported that on Saturday July 25, 2020, ‘‘a military aircraft’’ landed at Zueitina port with ‘‘uniformed personnel onboard’’, who ‘‘inspected the runway in preparation for military use’’. It added that afterwards, ‘‘foreign mercenaries entered and occupied the worker housing at Zueitina port’’.
The NOC also reported that it had received ‘‘reports of large numbers of mercenaries with military vehicles occupying the residential area of the Zallah oil field. Another group is occupying a Schlumberger Company camp located close to the field’’.
It reiterated its calls for the withdrawal of mercenaries and the demilitarisation of oil facilities so that its workers can carry out their work without putting their lives in danger.
It will be recalled that the two contesting sides in Libya’s civil war are camped either side of the de facto ceasefire line just west of Sirte. Both sides have been building up their forces for a possible attack. The forces aligned to the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli have vowed to push beyond the unofficial Sirte-Jufra ”red line”, to ”liberate” Sirte and the eastern oilfields, that the NOC is referring to – currently occupied by the pro Khalifa Hafter forces.
While Tripoli is backed militarily by Turkey and its aligned Syrian mercenaries, Hafter is backed by Wagner mercenaries (considered as proxies for Russia by the U.S.), pro Assad Syrian mercenaries, Egypt and U.A.E finance.
UNSMIL and the U.S. are working behind the scenes to avert a military attack, consolidate the ceasefire and restart political dialogue.