Libya’s NOC expects to regain Es Sider, Ras Lanuf oil ports

The oil port of Es Sider, Libya on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Updated 19 March 2017
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Libya’s NOC expects to regain Es Sider, Ras Lanuf oil ports

TUNIS: Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) has been coordinating with military forces from eastern Libya and has “no reason to believe” it will not regain control of the Es Sider and Ras Lanuf oil ports, NOC’s chairman said.
The loss and recapture of the ports this month by the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) had raised doubts over its willingness to let the Tripoli-based NOC manage the ports.
Revenue from the sites is controlled by a central bank and UN-backed government in the capital which pro-LNA factions oppose.
Eastern officials accuse rivals in Tripoli and the western city of Misrata of supporting a March 3 attack on the ports by a faction known as the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB).
An oil guard commander appointed by the UN-backed government was deployed to secure them.
After they were retaken, the head of a Benghazi NOC office appointed by Libya’s eastern government said he was pulling out of an NOC unification deal signed in July and an LNA spokesman said there would be no immediate decision on a handover.
But in written responses provided to Reuters, Mustafa Sanalla, the Tripoli-based NOC chairman, said his staff had already been working with the LNA.
“We have been coordinating our assessment of the facilities with them,” Sanalla said, in his first public comments since the ports were retaken.
“We have no reason to believe control of the ports will not be handed back to NOC.”
Es Sider and Ras Lanuf have a combined potential capacity of 600,000 barrels per day (bpd).
Operations there and at two other ports southwest of Benghazi are crucial to the NOC’s efforts to revive Libya’s output, which has been crippled by years of conflict and political chaos.
The LNA took over the ports in September, ending a two-year blockade at three of them and quickly inviting the NOC to resume exports.
Es Sider and Ras Lanuf were badly damaged in previous rounds of fighting and have been operating well below normal levels. The latest clashes, which included ground battles and more than a week of LNA air strikes, had dented the LNA’s claim it could defend the ports and led to fears that facilities would suffer further damage.
But Waha Oil Company resumed pumping to Es Sider on Saturday and Sanalla said the NOC had decided to restart operations at the ports based on technical assessments and a review by military engineers.
“For the most part, the facilities are not damaged. In one or two locations, some work needs to be done by the military engineers. Our workers are returning to their terminals gradually.”
Reuters journalists observed little apparent additional damage to the ports during a visit on Thursday.
An engineer at the Waha oil field said on Sunday it was pumping 25,000 bpd to Es Sider as it restarted production, which stood at 75,000 bpd before the clashes.
Sanalla said the NOC was hoping to raise overall production to 800,000 bpd by the end of April from 611,000 bpd currently.
Libya along with Nigeria has been exempted from production cuts recently agreed by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
However, any gains in Libya remain fragile as long as the political turmoil that has fractured the country since its 2011 uprising continues.
Oil accounts for nearly all of Libya’s income and pipelines and ports have been repeatedly blockaded by local groups seeking political and financial gain.
Eastern authorities have attempted to sell oil independently, but have been blocked by international sanctions which remain in place.
Oil facilities are protected by the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) but PFG units often operate independently or for a particular political faction.
Sanalla said a neutral PFG should have a role, “but under the authority and real management of NOC.”
“Putting the PFG under the NOC would, we think, go a long way to removing Libya’s oil assets as an object of military competition,” he said.
“Unless oil assets are taken off the table as an object of conflict, unless the oil industry is ring-fenced from our political conflict, then the possibility of more fighting remains.”


Turkey’s ruling party taunts opposition over early election

Updated 21 April 2018
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Turkey’s ruling party taunts opposition over early election

  • By bringing the vote forward by more than a year, Erdogan hopes to capitalize on nationalist support for the military advances by Turkish troops in north Syria
  • Since AK Party first won a parliamentary election in November 2002, Erdogan has dominated Turkish politics, first as prime minister and then as president

ANKARA: Turkey’s ruling AK Party taunted the main opposition party on Thursday to name a candidate to challenge Recep Tayyip Erdogan for June elections which are expected to tighten the president’s 15-year hold on power.

Government spokesman Bekir Bozdag said the secularist opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP) was reluctant to put its leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, forward for the June 24 vote “because they do not believe he can compete with our president.”

Erdogan called the snap election on Wednesday, bringing the vote forward by more than a year so that Turkey can switch to the powerful new executive presidency that was narrowly approved in a divisive referendum last year.

While many people expected the presidential and parliamentary elections to be held early, the new date leaves barely two months for campaigning and may have wrong-footed Erdogan’s opponents.

“Our chief has donned his wrestling outfit, so if Mr.Kilicdaroglu says ‘I’m a soldier,’ then he should put on his wrestler’s tights and come out,” Bozdag said. The CHP says it will decide on a candidate in the next 10 days, and the pro-Kurdish HDP said it would convene on Sunday to discuss its plans. The nationalist MHP party has said it is backing Erdogan.

Only former Interior Minister Meral Aksener, who broke away from the MHP last year to form the Good Party, has announced her plans to stand for the presidency.

“A politician does not run from elections,” Bozdag said, adding he believed Erdogan would win in the first round. “We as the AK Party are ready for elections.”

Since AK Party first won a parliamentary election in November 2002, Erdogan has dominated Turkish politics, first as prime minister and then as president, transforming his poor, sprawling country on the eastern fringes of Europe into a major emerging market.

But Turkey’s rapid growth has been accompanied by increased authoritarianism, which critics at home and in Europe say has left the country lurching toward one-man rule.

Since an abortive military coup in July 2016, authorities have detained more than 160,000 people, the UN says. Nearly two years after the coup attempt Turkey is still ruled under a state of emergency, and the crackdown continues.

The US voiced concern on Thursday about the timing. “During a state of emergency, it would be difficult to hold a completely free, fair and transparent election in a manner that is consistent with ... Turkish law,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing.

Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said on Wednesday authorities had identified 3,000 armed forces personnel believed to be linked to the US-based cleric Ankara blames for the failed coup. He said they would be dismissed in the coming days.

Media outlets have also been shut down and scores of journalists have been jailed.

 

Early advantage

By calling the vote nearly a year and half early, Erdogan can capitalize on nationalist support for the military advances by Turkish troops in north Syria, where they drove out Kurdish YPG forces, said Goldman Sachs senior economist Erik Meyersson.

The tight schedule “also gives less time for the opposition to organize and choose presidential candidates,” Meyersson wrote in a research note.

The head of a Turkish polling company seen as close to the AK Party said a poll conducted this week had put the AKP on 41.5 percent, with 6 percent for its ally, the MHP.

Mehmet Ali Kulat, chairman of MAK Danismanlik, said that in a presidential election support for Erdogan could outstrip support for his party.

Erdogan’s announcement helped the lira, which has plumbed record lows this month on widening concern about double-digit inflation and the outlook for monetary policy. The currency surged 2.2 percent on Wednesday, its biggest one-day advance in a year. Turkish stocks also rose more than 2 percent.

Economists said the lira rally reflected a belief that the quick timeline for the election reduced the prospect of extra stimulus to maintain economic growth ahead of the vote.

The economy expanded 7.4 percent last year, fueled by stimulus measures including tax changes and an increase in government credit support for small businesses. The government forecasts 5.5 percent growth in 2018 though economists polled by Reuters expect more modest growth of 4.1 percent.