Cairo- Forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar, the general commander of Libya’s pro-parliament National Army, achieved a key military victory on Sunday, as they gained control over the country’s “oil crescent” that was under the authority of militias supporting the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
“Oil crescent” is home to two major Mediterranean ports and is seen as a vital source of income for the GNA which is struggling to assert its authority.
Previously controlled by guards allied to the GNA, the ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf were seized by forces loyal to Haftar, who is one of the most powerful military figures in Libya.
Colonel Ahmed al-Mismari, a spokesman for Haftar’s forces, told a press conference that another oil terminal at Zueitina was not yet under their control.
“Clashes are now ongoing near the Zueitina port,” Mismari said.
He also confirmed that Haftar’s fighters were in control of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf.
Hatem El-Ouraybi, a spokesman for the eastern authority, told AFP the attack was aimed at “regaining full control of the oil crescent.”
“The government calls on all the people of the oil crescent area — including those who were in the oil installations guards — to join the army or return to their homes,” he said.
U.N. special envoy to Libya Martin Kobler said on Twitter he was worried about the fighting.
“Oil belongs to all Libyans,” he tweeted. “Conflicts can only be solved through dialogue, not violence,” he added, urging all parties to sit together.
Ras Lanuf and Es Sider are together capable of handling 700,000 barrels of oil per day but had been closed for months after jihadist attacks.
The Libyan oil sector has been controlled by armed groups since 2013, which led to a sharp decrease in production levels that reached only 250,000 barrels per day, compared to one and a half million barrels per day before that year.