After a period of failed Tunisian negotiations under the auspices of the UN and UNSMIL's Stephanie Williams, which led to discord among the participants and exacerbated relations between the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), there is renewed hope in Libya for the gradual restoration of constructive dialogue through economic arrangements.
This time, a number of Libyan financial organizations succeeded in agreeing to unify banking institutions and define a united exchange rate.
Representatives from the two branches of the Central Bank of Libya (Tripoli and Tobruk), the Audit Bureau, the Ministry of Finance and the National Oil Corporation participated in the negotiations. Negotiations on the Libyan economy began at the initiative of Ahmed Maiteeq, deputy prime minister of the Tripoli-based GNA.
The year 2020 was initially successful since reconciliation between the warring parties had become a distinct possibility. The head of the GNA Fayez al-Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar, were, as early as January 2020, holding regular meetings mediated by third countries – as in the international conference in Berlin, the Cairo Declaration, etc. These constructive talks culminated in the agreement in August, when the GNA and the LNA agreed to a ceasefire.
In parallel, however, there was the truly destructive work of UN and American Stephanie Williams’ UNSMIL, with a concerted effort to integrate radicals close to the Muslim Brotherhood, such as Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, into future power structures.
Williams finally admitted that the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) in Tunisia had reached a dead end, and the long negotiations resulted in many participants simply leaving the event, not wanting to participate in sabotaging the process. The stated goal of forming an interim government and presidential council was thus not achieved during the LPDF meetings. The only result was the announcement of new elections in December 2021.
The LPDF is an initiative solely of Williams herself, but not of the Libyan people. Williams herself mentioned that this was a moment for Libyans and their politicians to contribute to Libyan sovereignty – but in fact she contradicts this path, as UNSMIL tries to appoint leaders on its own and keep the situation under its own control.
Parallel to the attempts at political negotiation, Maiteeq strengthened ties by introducing gradual economic steps. It was thanks to him that an agreement was reached with Haftar in September to resume oil exports. It was also the first time in a long time that the two sides had agreed to set up a joint committee with representatives from both sides to oversee the equitable distribution of Libya’s oil export revenues.
Maiteeq’s incremental steps proved to be the right direction, given the gradual success of the agreements. In recent years, despite the chaos in Libya, he has regularly pressed for the peaceful stabilization of Libya and domestic business by economic means and through a common national strategy.
“The support of small and medium enterprises and having them founded on a sound base within the strategy and national development policy will contribute effectively to push forward the economy; also will help the achievement of social welfare,” he once noted.
At the Mediterranean Dialogues video conference in Rome, in which Maiteeq participated, they discussed not only political developments, but also ways to improve economic cooperation. There, referring to Libya’s sovereignty, Maiteeq emphasized the rejection of domination by outside forces in Libya
Thanks to Maiteeq and these steps, Libya’s economy began to look up, and against a backdrop of gradual political stabilization, it became realistic to address pressing questions about the social well-being of Libyans. Thus, the prerequisites for the country’s sustainable development were put in place. Moreover, a success such as the oil deal, is a fully-fledged step toward the unification of the country.
The agreement to unify financial institutions is a natural consequence of this consistent policy, including the oil deal, since its export is the country’s main source of income.
It is possible that Maiteeq could occupy a key position in the new government. He did not rule out such a possibility during the Dialogues, and he underscored that he would be ready to lead the government.
In conclusion, it may be said that the manipulation of political terms under UN control had only brought the situation to a standstill, whereas what Libya needed was a pragmatic approach and real economic arrangements. While politicians were quarreling, economic institutions found common ground. It is therefore possible that economists could bring a level of stability to Libya.
Will the UN, with its political manipulation supported by the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical groups in Libya prevail, or pragmatist technocrats, whose interests actually include the stability of the country and the need to prepare it for investment and development?
Maiteeq has so far shown that he knows how to negotiate with economists, politicians and international actors. If he is elected to power, he has a good chance of bringing peace to the country.
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