TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libya’s El Sharara oilfield, the country’s biggest, remains closed because an armed group is still there, the chairman of state oil firm NOC said in a video published by NOC on Sunday.
The 315,000 barrels a day field has been closed since December when state guards and tribesmen seized it to make financial demands.
“The field is closed because of the presence of a group of civilians, this armed militia, and some military people with them,” Mustafa Sanallah said in the video posted online.
“The field is not yet safe,” he said.
He said NOC was in contact with the Libyan National Army (LNA) force which took control of the field this month.
The LNA has called on NOC to lift force majeure, a contractual waiver, but Sanalla said conditions set out by NOC for such a move, such as safety for its workers, had not yet been met.
Sanalla said NOC was neutral and dealt with all parties in Libya’s conflict, explaining his contact with the LNA. He referred to the LNA as “army” as it is known in eastern Libya, the power base of its commander Khalia Haftar.
Haftar’s LNA control the east and have started an offensive in southern Libya. It is allied to a parallel government based in the east opposing the U.N.-backed administration in Tripoli where NOC is based.
Last week, LNA officials had said they handed over control of the El Sharara field to an oil security force. NOC later said it had sent a team to inspect security at the field.
Reporting by Ulf Laessing and Ahmed Elumami; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Daniel Wallis