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Ahmed Maiteeq. Photo: Libya archive

The man of the future in Libya?

The oil deal in Libya discloses the rampant fight for power and oncoming political changes.

Published: September 25, 2020, 10:44 am

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    The Libyan crisis has been going on for nearly ten years. The stumbling block in the issue of its settlement, among other things, is the distribution of revenues from oil production. A few days ago, an event took place that could become a prerequisite for a real and lasting settlement – an agreement on a fair distribution of oil revenues was reached between the commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar and the Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Libya Ahmed Maiteeq.

    However, the statements by the GNA leadership that followed this agreement, revealed loads of contradictions within the GNA controlled structures.

    On September 18, Field Marshal of the Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar, announced that the country was resuming oil production and export, and the proceeds from the sale of the resource would be fairly distributed between the west, south and east of the state. According to Haftar, the resumption of oil fields for a month is the result of an inter-Libyan dialogue with the vice-premier of the Tripoli-based GNA Ahmed Maiteeq. The parties came to an agreement on the fair distribution of oil revenues and the formation of a technical committee: its members will oversee the implementation of this decision and deal with disputes.

    Nevertheless, the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Libya does not want to lose control over financial flows from the energy sector. Fearing impending political changes, Fayez Sarraj’s entourage is trying to prevent this very “fair distribution of income” from Libyan oil exports.

    The agreement announced by Khalifa Haftar on September 18 is being actively sabotaged by a number of structures and groups affiliated with the GNA. Thus, this agreement was rejected by the GNA parliament, the Supreme State Council – created as an advisory body to the GNA – as well as the Central Bank of Libya. Moreover, according to one of the assistants who asked the media not to disclose his name, the head of the GNA Fayez Sarraj himself also opposed the agreement reached with the LNA.

    It is worth mentioning that the Libyan Central Bank has been in the grip of Saddik al-Kabir for nine years already. He is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist group. During this time, being the manager of the country’s main financial institution, he has been suspected in causing colossal damage to the Libyan economy. The multibillion-dollar embezzlement from the state budget, carried out with his direct participation, supposedly went to pay for the smuggling of Turkish weapons, Syrian mercenaries and salaries of local militants.

    The chairman of the Justice and Construction party of the GNA, Muhammad Sovan, also spoke out against the agreement to resume oil production in Libya. This Islamist movement has never hidden its inclination toward and support for the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    The spokesman for the Libyan National Army, Major General Ahmad al-Mismari explained in his recent statement that the resumption of oil production is currently critical for the economy and the population. He recalled that the North African country possesses large reserves of oil and gas. Exporting this commodity would make it possible to solve the many problems which have accumulated during the protracted crisis. At the same time, the speaker of the Libyan army warned that the armed groups of the GNA, primarily from Misurata town, would be obstructing the implementation of the oil agreement in every possible way, since it would not be profitable for them.

    The armed gangs in Misurata are strongly influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood. They are mostly under the control of the Minister of Internal Affairs of the GNA Fathi Bashage. This official from Sarraj’s entourage does not want to lose control over the financial flows passing through the Tripoli-based National Oil Company (NOC) and the Libyan Central Bank.

    On September 19, Ahmad al-Mismari gave an interview to the AlHadath TV channel, where he noted that the day before in the city of Sirte, the first meeting of a special Commission for the resolution of controversial issues, created by agreement, was to be held. Mismari confirmed that Ahmed Maiteeq was supposed to arrive for the talks, but armed groups staged an attack on his home in Misurata, aiming to disrupt the dialogue.

    “Now there is even shooting at Maiteeq’s house in Misurata. Sarraj is now at a crossroads – he will either go with Bashaga, or go to make peace with Maiteeq. Do not forget that there are many states wishing to prolong the Libyan conflict. Maiteeq is now under strong pressure from armed gangs and illegal groups. He lives in Misurata, and this is a city of criminal gangs”, the LNA speaker explained.

    Given such tremendous pressures, it was quite a bold move from Ahmed Maiteeq to reach an agreement with the LNA army head. Considering this brave approach and the importance of the resumption of the oil sector for the country’s budget, it is obvious that sympathies from the Libyan population towards Maiteeq will grow rapidly, as well as his political opportunities.

    In this regard, it is worth recollecting that Fayez Sarraj recently announced his intention to resign no later than the end of October 2020. Ahmed Maiteeq, representing an image of a liberal politician with extensive business connections both in Libya and abroad, is being regarded as one of the top candidates to replace Sarraj.

    In particular, on September 15, Ahmed Maiteeq visited Turkey where he had meetings with Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar. Some political experts and journalists agreed on the suspicion that this visit was aimed to show the seriousness of Maiteeq’s intentions to take over from Sarrai and therefore to obtain Turkish support. One outlet of Turkish state media, TRT World, went even further and called Maiteeq “the next prime minister of Libya’s UN-recognized Tripoli government”.

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