Haftar, Maiteeq reach ‘deal’ to end Libya’s oil blockade
On 17 September, details emerged of a Russian-brokered deal over oil resources negotiated in Sochi between the Presidential Council (PC)/Government of National Accord (GNA) Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq (representing himself) and Khalid Haftar — the son of the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA). Neither the GNA/PC nor the National Oil Corporation (NOC) participated in or were signatories to the deal, and as such the deal could not be said to be binding on them. The following day, LNA Commander Khalifa Haftar gave a speech on television in which he announced that Libya’s oil ports would reopen, based on the agreement reached with Maiteeq. At this point, the NOC had the legal right to not restart production but didn’t want to be seen to be blocking progress. In addition to the immediate resumption of oil production and exports from all fields and ports, the agreement proposes the creation of a joint technical committee to oversee the distribution of oil revenues for the next 3 months, as well as additional financing to be offered to the NOC to increase production to previous levels within an ‘agreed’ financial oversight mechanism. The deal’s proposed joint technical committee is meant to coordinate the preparation of unified budgets for both Western and Eastern Libya and oversee the transfer of agreed money to both sides through the Finance Ministry.
The Maiteeq-Haftar deal emerged due to Russia and Turkey wanting to resurrect their dominance of the Libya file and steal the thunder of the US, which had been playing an assertive role in creating the mechanisms for securing and sharing Libya’s oil revenue in the event of a negotiated restart of production. The development is thus a boon for Russia’s objectives in Libya, which are to enhance its regional stature as a diplomatic facilitator. The media optics surrounding the deal were ingeniously devised in such a way that those who are non-compliant will be outwardly perceived as blocking the re-opening of Libya’s oil sector and inter alia the alleviation of suffering of the country’s civilians, especially from the perspective of power cuts. It places the onus of what happens next on the NOC and GNA – neither of whom wish to be seen as the entity stopping the resumption of Libya’s oil production.
The UN process in Libya must redouble its efforts to regain any momentum for its dialogue initiatives, while simultaneously widening the scope of its engagement to not be outpaced by other potential mediators. Despite its dubious origins and myriad illegalities, the Haftar-Maiteeq deal has now shown that their process was an effective and viable alternative process to normal UN mediation. Over the past few months, Haftar’s role had been constantly diminishing. As a military figure with no conflict to pursue, and no longer the key international interlocutor, Haftar’s role had been limited to his control over oil and his ability to act as a spoiler. By participating in the deal and likely serving as its impetus, he has once again risen to the headlines and is able to present himself as ‘working to liberate the people of Libya from economic oppression.’