Libya's largest oil field, Sharara, along with the El Feel oilfield are now safe according to claims on Wednesday of the head of the Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar, who headed the recapture of the closed El Sharara oilfield, local media sources reported on Monday.
This claim was echoed by the newly assigned commander of the Sabha military zone, Ali Kanah who said the Sharara and El Feel oilfields are safe, the Libya Observer reported, noting "the [military] force entrusted with their protection is capable of carrying out its task to the fullest extent."
Sharara has been closed since December after its seizure by the members of the Maghawir Brigade, crippling the oil exports which the country mainly depends on for the revenues.
For the past two weeks, Haftar's forces have been hitting back at what they describe as "smuggling gangs and Chadian opposition" in southern Libya.
Last month, pro-Haftar forces arrived at the Sabha Airbase (known locally as the Tamanhant Airbase) in advance of planned operations along Libya’s borders with Sudan, Chad and Niger.
According to the Libyan news outlet, Kanah said that Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) could leave the Sharara oilfield in its force majeure status if it wanted to, denying that both fields are under the control of militias.
Libya's NOC declared a force majeure on Dec. 10, stating the Sharara oil field shutdown would cause a production loss of 315,000 barrels per day (bpd), with an additional loss of 73,000 bpd at the El Feel oil field since it depends on Sharara for its electricity supply.
The new commander Kanah also called on foreign companies to resume operations in the two oilfields, the Libya Observer said, adding that the respective operating companies should demand that the international community recognize them as the legislative and executive institutions to resume their responsibilities in operating the fields.
Spanish oil major Repsol owns and operates the Sharara oilfield, while Mellitah Oil and Gas, a joint venture between NOC and Italy’s Eni, operates the El Feel field.
The foreign companies that the NOC has exploration and production sharing agreements with include Italy's Eni, France's Total, German Wintershall and Spanish Repsol.
NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla met with Repsol General Manager Paolo Navas on Thursday at the NOC headquarters in Tripoli to discuss in-country projects and the ongoing crisis at the Sharara oil field.
According to the NOC's statement on Saturday, the two executives explored areas for further cooperation and reviewed joint commercial activities and plans for 2019, including the latest developments at Sharara.
"Both parties expressed concern for the safety of staff on the ground and the overall security set-up of the site, calling for a cessation of hostilities and armed conflict in and around the facility - essential to resume production operations in the field," the statement read.
Libya has been beset by turmoil since 2011, when a NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of President Muammar Gaddafi after more than four decades in power.
Since then, Libya’s stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power -- one in Tobruk, to which Haftar is affiliated, and another in Tripoli -- along with a host of armed groups of dubious loyalties.
By Ebru Sengul