WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States, France, Britain and Italy said on Wednesday they were deeply concerned by an announcement that east Libyan oil fields and ports would be handed over to a parallel National Oil Corporation (NOC) based in Libya’s east.
“These 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,” the countries said in a joint statement, referring to the NOC and U.N.-backed government in the capital, Tripoli.
“We call for all armed actors to cease hostilities and withdraw immediately from oil installations without conditions before further damage occurs.”
The statement responded to an announcement on Monday by forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) that they would hand eastern ports to a parallel NOC based in the eastern city of Benghazi.
The announcement followed a week of fighting over the ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider, which have been controlled along with other ports in Libya’s oil crescent by the LNA since September 2016.
The LNA had previously let the internationally recognized Tripoli NOC operate the ports, boosting Libya’s oil production. But after Ras Lanuf and Es Sider were attacked this month, it said oil revenues paid into the central bank in Tripoli were being used to fund its rivals.
Past attempts by eastern-based factions to sell oil independently of Tripoli have been thwarted by U.N. Security Council resolutions.
“Any attempts to circumvent the...Security Council’s Libya sanctions regime will cause deep harm to Libya’s economy, exacerbate its humanitarian crisis, and undermine its broader stability,” Wednesday’s joint statement said.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Mark Heinrich