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Economics first: Ahmed Maiteeq's approach to the Libyan unity is working

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Amid the fiasco of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), which failed to form an interim government in divided Libya, the result of talks Wednesday between economic institutions representing the two sides to the conflict was an unexpected success, Bloomberg reported.

Stephany Williams, the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN and current head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) recognized Tuesday that LPDF went to impasse as talks since November failed to form interim authorities in the country. The only result was an established date for new elections in December 2021.

As Williams noted, the UN was forced to set up an advisory committee to bridge the differences between participants in the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum.

On Wednesday, however, encouraging news came from Switzerland. Representatives from the two branches of the Central Bank of Libya (one in Tobruk and the other in Tripoli), the Audit Bureau, the Ministry of Finance and the National Oil Corporation agreed to merge the banking institutions and define a single exchange rate.

Stephanie Williams said in a statement that "now is the moment for all Libyans - particularly the country's political actors - to demonstrate similar courage, determination and leadership to put aside their personal interests and overcome their differences for the sake of the Libyan people in order to restore the country's sovereignty and the democratic legitimacy of its institutions".

Thus, she in fact recognized that the only successful road to the peace in Libya lies within the framework defined not by external actors but Libyans themselves, as negotiations on the Libyan economy started from the bold initiative of Ahmed Maiteeq the Vice Prime Minister of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord.

LPDF on the contrary was the mere initiative of Williams herself and was heavily criticized by many Libyan actors.

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Maiteeq's approach

One of the main outcomes of the year 2020 was the new start of the peace process in Libya. Beginning with negotiations in Moscow in January 2020 and a full-scale international conference in Berlin, the search for a peaceful solution to the conflict continued with the Cairo Declaration in June. Finally in August the parties to the conflict: the Government of National Accord  (GNA) in Tripoli and the Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar reached a ceasefire.

However, an initiative by Ahmed Maiteeq has given a decisive impetus to the peace process. In September he reached an agreement with Khalifa Haftar to resume Libya's oil exports and establish a joint committee, representatives of both sides of the conflict, to oversee the fair distribution of oil export revenues.

At the time, Ahmed Maiteeq was criticized by a number of GNA figures. The Chairman of the High Council of State Khalid al-Mishri even tried to denounce it. The time has shown that Maiteeq’s approach was correct. His initiative made it possible to relaunch the Libyan economy, to begin solving the urgent problems that concerned all the inhabitants of the country without exception, to create the prerequisites for stable and sustainable development and to cure the wounds of war. His approach was inclusive (nobody else in GNA did not want to spoke with Haftar) and pragmatic.

Thus, the Maiteeq-Haftar agreement was also the first real step to unite the country. It was it that made it possible to realize the unification of the Petroleum Facilities Guard, divided by parties to the conflict in November 2020. The current agreement to unify the financial institutions is only a logical consequence of the September agreement, since oil is the main source of income in Libya.

The efforts of Ahmed Maitig have been recognized internationally. As the recent report of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) says:

"On the economy's side, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq has continued to seek solutions to build on the relative success of the agreement to reopen Libyan oil assets struck with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in September. Over the past month, Maiteeq has tried to connect officials from the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the eastern-based Interim Government in order to pursue the resumption of an economic reform program, with the imperative of unifying the country's financial institutions."

The path to peace

It is noteworthy that, amid the squabbling of politicians who cannot agree among themselves, Libya's economic institutions are proving remarkably contractual. This observation alone shows that the solution to the Libyan crisis lies largely in the economic realm. Economic agreements are a prerequisite for the normalization of political relations.

On the other hand, political will is needed to push through economic agreements. Thus, the success of the peace process in Libya will largely depend on which politicians will play the main role: pragmatists interested in unifying the country or Islamists ideologically irreconcilable with their opponents.

Ahmed Maiteeq is considered to be a pragmatist, ideologically neutral politician with close ties to Libyan business. In addition, he is considered one of the main contenders for the position of the future Prime Minister. On 1 December, while participating in Mediterranean Dialogues forum, Maiteeq reiterated his willingness to lead the next government if Libyans choose him.

If he, or someone like him, is given more power, the peace process in Libya is likely to gain new momentum, boosting confidence among all Libyans regardless their political affiliations.

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