Anger in Libya over an agreement last Sunday between Libyan and Tunisian municipalities on either side of the border that is said to give Tunisian traders a significant financial advantage over Libyans is growing.
Earlier this week residents blocked the road at the Ras Jedir border crossing over local anger at Libyan efforts at the border to clamp down on "smuggling". National Oil Cooperation chairman Mustafa Sanalla called it "legalised smuggling" while the head of the border post, Mohamed Jarafa, said the agreement was "humiliating".
Under the new agreement, Tunisian merchants will be able to export goods from Libya tax-free up to the value of 4,000 Libyan dinars ($1,730) and 150-litres of petrol tax-free. In return, Libyans will be able to import 1,000 Tunisian dinars ($434) worth of food and medicines when prescribed by a doctor.
An agreement was reached after five days of talks in the Libyan city of Zawia with Tunisian officials from Ben Guerdane and representatives from nine western Libyan municipalities.
Rejecting the deal, Jarafa accused the municipalities of violating the role of the Libyan state. "We will continue working with our previous cross-border trade procedures," he stated.
Addressing the annual general meeting of the Zawia Refinery Company two days ago, Sanalla said the agreement was an attempt by Tunisians to legalise smuggling for profit at the expense of the Libyan people. Sanallah called on the western municipalities to continue the fight against smuggling.
He accused the local Nasr brigade, which forms the Petroleum Facilities Guard, of involvement in smuggling subsidised fuel out of Libya which resulted in a loss of millions of dollars to the Libyan treasury.