Divided on Politics, Libya Rivals Find Economic Middle Ground

Libya’s political rivals deadlocked on a formula for selecting leadership to unify the country, but reached rare common ground on starting work on repairing the economy.

Libyan delegates to the political talks sponsored by the United Nations failed to muster enough votes for any of the proposed options for selecting an executive authority in the North African oil producer. The UN’s acting envoy to the country, Stephanie Williams, said she would set up an advisory committee to help bridge differences.

“The train has left the station on this process, there is no going back,” Williams said in a statement late Tuesday.

The political talks are part of a wider, UN-led effort to end fighting that has ravaged Libya ever since a NATO-backed revolt ousted longtime leader Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011, eventually leading to the establishment of dueling administrations. The rivals have already agreed on a date for elections at the end of next year and are maintaining a fragile cease-fire that has allowed Libya’s oil output to climb to 1.04 million barrels per day, almost double from November.

More positive news emerged from the economic talks that grouped representatives of the European Union, Egypt, the U.S. and the World Bank, as well as key Libyan institutions such as the National Oil Corp. and the Finance Ministry.

The key outcome was a decision to convene, for the first time in five years, a unified board meeting of the central bank on Wednesday. The parallel institutions that have been set up in the capital, Tripoli, and the eastern city of Tobruk include two central banks, and the meeting is expected to address formulating a single exchange rate.

Libya is grappling with two official rates and the black-market rate in a balancing act that affects everything from the national budget to the vital oil sector. Unifying them is an integral part of ending the conflict that’s pitted the internationally recognized Tripoli-based government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj against eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar.

Libya’s Central Bank Chief Says He’s Barred From Travel (1)

Williams said officials are also working on a “clear roadmap forward” that includes managing oil revenue, with the aim eventually of unfreezing the funds that state-run NOC has refused to hand over to the Tripoli central bank. Libya is home to Africa’s largest crude reserves.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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