Originally appeared in Libya Wire
In spite of reports of a political row between Libya and Qatar over accusations of Doha’s financial and military support for Libyan Islamist factions, bilateral economic ties remain deep, and in some cases are strengthening. By providing assistance during the revolution, Qatar is poised to make inroads in the strategic energy and projects sectors.
During the revolution, Qatar provided liquidity to the cash-strapped NTC, allowing it to pay salaries and other expenses. In late March 2011, Qatar offered to help market one million barrels of oil for the NTC, delivered fuel shipments and offered loan guarantees to facilitate the purchase of refined products.
With Libyan oil assets – even those under rebel control in the east – under sanction at the time, the Qatari move represented a significant gamble – one that has paid off with reports of a pro-Qatari attitude in Tripoli regarding future oil deals.
The scale of current Qatari investments in Libya stands at about $10bn, much of which date back to the late Gaddafi period. Significantly, two major Qatari-Libyan joint ventures have been given the green light in spite of NTC announcements that they will review investment projects initiated by the previous regime. These include:
- A $2bn 3,000 square meter development of hotels, residential complexes and entertainment facilities that is a joint venture of Barwa Real Estate Company, a subsidiary of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, and Libya’s state-owned Libyan Development and Investment Company; and
- “The Waterfront” a luxury residential complex outside of Tripoli being developed by Al-Libya Al-Qataria (ALAQ), which is a joint venture of Qatar’s Diar Real Estate Investment Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Qatar Investment Authority, and Oyia, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Libya’s Economic and Social Development Fund.
Qatar Airways was among the early airlines resuming service to Libya, and currently operates Doha-Benghazi flights four times weekly. Sheikh Hamad’s second official act of 2012 was to appoint Sheikh Mohamed bin Nasser bin Jassim al-Thani, a member of Qatar’s royal Al Thani clan, as ambassador to Libya.
On top of strengthening economic ties, polling data suggest that Qatar retains a deep reserve of popular support in Libya for its role in shoring up the revolutionaries with diplomatic, military and financial support. 94% of Libyans responding to a recent IRI poll in eastern Libya rated Qatar as “highly favorable,” the highest score of any nation.