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Exclusive: Libyan Oil Corporation cut fuel supplies to the east of the country as the battle of the capital continues

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) has cut kerosene supplies to areas under the control of eastern Libya’s National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar, a move diplomats and oil officials see as an attempt to prevent his forces from using supplies in their five-month battle for control of the capital.

NOC said it was not taking sides in the conflict and that there was more than enough fuel in the east for civilian purposes.

The reduction in quantities sent to the east in August is a reversal of the position of the Libyan Oil Corporation, which works with internationally recognized authorities in the capital Tripoli and must also cooperate with Hifter’s forces, which control large oil fields.

The institution considers itself out of a decade-long struggle for control of the country, and the foundation’s data for the past three months reveal that it has significantly increased kerosene supplies to the east in response to demand.

“NOC has suspended all additional fuel supplies pending assurances that the fuel will be used exclusively for domestic and civil aviation purposes in a manner that reflects real consumption,” it said in a statement attached to the figures it sent to Reuters at its request.

“Aviation fuel stocks in the eastern region are more than sufficient to cover demand,” the firm said in a statement later on Friday. NOC also affirms its non-alignment with any of the parties to the conflict and strongly rejects any attempt to involve it in the ongoing conflict. ”

KOC data shows that kerosene supplies to airport depots in central and eastern areas controlled by the LNA, an KPC official said, fell to about 5.25 million liters in August.

The monthly figure for supplies rose to between 7.3 million liters and 8.8 million liters in the previous three months, more than double the January and February volumes.

Two oil industry officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the NOC was concerned the LNA would use the shipments in the Tripoli war. Two diplomats also said that was the reason for the cut.

The figures do not differentiate between locally used kerosene for heating and industrial purposes and the amounts used as jet fuel, but the demand for kerosene used as jet fuel has risen, the statement said.

“The demand for jet fuel has increased in the eastern part of the country, although the number of civil aviation flights has remained unchanged,” the statement said.

The LNA has been unable to infiltrate defenses in southern Tripoli since it launched its campaign in April, but the conflict has claimed more than 100 civilians and displaced more than 120,000, with no sign of ending.

The number of kerosene supplies for August is still more than about 3.5 million liters, the amount sent to the east in January and February, revealing the sensitivity of the issue to the civilian population and the limits of the Tripoli government.

Although authorities in the capital receive UN support, they are unable to extend their control over Libya, where rival armed groups fill the power vacuum left by the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The LNA is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and some Western powers such as France, which sees Hifter as a “counter-terrorism” force since it ousted Islamist militants from the east.

In April, the White House said US President Donald Trump telephoned Haftar and “acknowledged the essential role of Field Marshal Haftar in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and shared a common vision for Libya’s transition to a stable democratic political system.”

Jalil Harshawi, a researcher at the Clingendael Institute for International Relations in The Hague, said it would not be realistic for the NOC leadership to stand with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, who is backed by the United Nations and sever its relationship with the LNA.

“The general international climate is less favorable to Sallah (Mustafa Sallahullah), the head of the National Oil Corporation, now than it was a year ago,” he said.

– Avoid Tripoli –

Libyan oil officials and Western diplomats say there are indications that the east is seeking to set up a fuel import company, which would violate Libyan law, to supply military forces near Tripoli, about 1,000 kilometers from its base in Benghazi.

In the past few months, the United Nations has stopped several efforts by the East to export oil through small companies operating mainly from Dubai, which would have violated UN sanctions, they said.

“The establishment of any entity to export and import crude oil and petroleum products would violate Libyan and international law, under which NOC alone has the legal right to do so,” a spokesman for the National Oil Corporation (NOC) said.

Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam al-Badri in the east government denied efforts to export or import fuel. Mabrouk Sultan, head of the parallel National Oil Corporation (NOC), set up by the country’s eastern leaders, did not respond to repeated phone calls and messages.

Haftar receives military aid from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, according to UN reports, but faces difficulties in funding his parallel administration. The central bank in Tripoli pays only the salaries of some government employees in eastern Libya.

Diplomats say the LNA mainly uses drones as well as planes from Gaddafi’s army and transports everything, from munitions to food and soldiers, to two air bases in al-Jufra in central Libya and Barak in the south, where it continues its journey by road. Forces loyal to the Libyan National Army control a base in Zintan in western Libya.

Commercial flights operate from the east as well, but diverting aviation fuel from it will be politically difficult, as it is important for medical and business purposes.

Al-Sarraj-allied forces also receive fuel from the Libyan Oil Corporation. The Foundation has not yet responded to a request for comment on whether it also restricted those supplies.

Sarraj’s allies are less fuel-dependent than the LNA because supply lines are shorter, and they have reduced their air strikes after the LNA bombed airports in the west of the country.

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