By Farah Waleed.
Benghazi, 22 September 2014:
The Oil Minister for the rival Hassi government has given a press conference . . .[restrict]in Tripoli and apparently taken control of the Ministry of Oil Ministry buildings, declaring his intention to protect the country’s resources.
Speaking from inside the ministry yesterday, Hassi’s minister, Mashallah Al-Zwai, said he and his team would oversee the transfer of power from the previous Oil Minister Omar Al-Shakmak. Zwai called for a united Libya and said his ministry would safeguard Libya’s precious oil and gas.
The impact on the country’s vital exports remain unclear. Shakmak was unavailable for comment and Mohammed Al-Harrari, spokesman for the National Oil Corporation (NOC), which shares its premises with the Ministry of Oil, said the corporation did not intend to wade into what was a political issue.
Abdullah Al-Thinni, who is backed by the House of Representatives in Tobruk, last week proposed a government without a Minister for Oil. It is understood that gas and oil resources were to become completely the remit of the NOC.
National oil production, which had been making a resurgence, following the reopening of key eastern oil terminals, fell yesterday for the first time in months, from 870,000 barrels per day to 750,000 b/d.
The decrease has been attributed to the closure of Sharara oilfield because of fighting in the nearby town of Zawia. The area to the west of Tripoli, including Warshefana has been subjected to some of the worst violence in the country in recent weeks as Libya Dawn, spearheaded by the Libyan Revolutionaries’ Operations Room, battles with local forces. There has been speculation that the Misratan-led Libya Dawn forces have long coveted Sharara’s vast oil reserves.
In a confusing development, a new list of government ministers within Hassi’s rival cabinet has emerged on official social media pages. The list omits the position of Oil Minister, perhaps an indication that the Tripoli-based government also wishes the NOC to have autonomy over the country’s oil reserves.