(Adds NOC, background)
By Ulf Laessing
TUNIS, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Libya’s internationally recognised government has agreed with state oil firm NOC on steps to reopen the El Sharara oilfield and lift force majeure, a contractual waiver, a government statement said on Tuesday.
But it was unclear how this will happen as the Tripoli-based government this month lost effective control of the 315,000 barrel a day field when forces allied to an eastern-based parallel government took over.
Both sides agreed on steps for civilians, who helped state guards seize the southern field in December to make financial demands, to leave, the Tripoli government said in a statement.
NOC said the field will reopen once militiamen outside the regular oil protection force leave El Sharara, a statement said, repeating its previous stance.
The statements came after the Tripoli-based premier Fayez al-Serraj and NOC chairman met in the United Arab Emirates, which is the biggest backer of Khalifa Haftar, a key figure and commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) force.
It was not clear whether Haftar was also present in the UAE where the U.N. Special Envoy Ghassan Salame and U.S. ambassador to Libya had travelled to broker a deal to reopen the field, diplomats said.
Haftar’s LNA took this month control of two oilfields in Libya’s south, El Sharara and the nearby El Feel facility.
The LNA has called on state oil firm NOC to reopen the El Sharara field but Sanalla on Sunday rejected the LNA’s demands, saying El Sharara was not secure because the gunmen who had seized it were still present.
He repeated his previous stance that armed militiamen needed to leave and workers’ safety guaranteed.
He also rejected any “extortion”, a reference to previous government efforts to pay off state oil guards or others which seized the field several times to make demands.
Serraj heads the internationally recognized government based in Tripoli which opposes a parallel administration based in the east allied to Haftar, who is also based there.
Sanalla is based in Tripoli like Serraj but has sought to keep NOC out of the conflict.
The LNA in January started a campaign to secure oilfields and fight militants in the south, expanding his territory claim much beyond the east which it controls.
The LNA has already secured oil ports in eastern Libya, forcing NOC to work with Haftar. (Additional reporting by Ahmed Elumami and Ayman al-Warfalli; Editing by Kevin Liffey and David Evans)