(Reuters) - East Libyan military forces are in talks with protesting state guards to take over the nation’s largest oilfield El Sharara peacefully and pass it to the state oil firm، a commander said on Monday.
The comments by Abdel-Razeq Nathouri، chief of staff of the Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by Khalifa Haftar، may soothe fears of a battle for the 315،000 barrels-per-day field.
Libya has been in turmoil since the NATO-backed toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011، with rival administrations and armed groups controlling different territories.
The LNA began an offensive in the south last month to fight Islamist militants، Chadian opposition forces and cross-border smugglers، as well as to secure oil installations.
It reached a remote pumping station، but has not moved on the main El Sharara field which a rival force of state guards seized in December demanding money. Production stopped then.
“We are now in talks with the guards. In the end، Libyans mustn’t fight each other،” Nathouri، who is Haftar’s No. 2، told Reuters at his office in the city of Marj in the Green Mountains، a 90-minute drive from main eastern city of Benghazi.
He did not give details of financial negotiations with the state guards holding El Sharara، though he said their demands on salary payments and uniforms were rightful and would be met.
Reuters was unable to immediately confirm the negotiations with the group at El Sharara. Tensions there and at the nearby 70،000 bpd El Feel field have risen in past days after the LNA banned flights without its permission.