The international ‘Friends of Libya’ conference in Paris marks the beginning of normalisation but also the beginning of a race for Libya’s oil.
It is an irony of fate that the “Friends of Libya” conference took place on the day on which Muammar Gaddafi would have celebrated the 42nd anniversary of the military coup that brought him to power. Sixty countries sent delegations to the meeting hosted by France and Britain. The event gathered together German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Russia and China, which initially opposed the military intervention in Libya, also sent envoys to take part in the discussion.
It is hardly a sheer coincidence, that as the world leaders gathered to discuss Libya’s future with the National Transitional Council, the French daily Liberation published a letter from the rebels to the Emir of Qatar. In it, Liberation said, the “Popular Front for the Liberation of Libya” tells the emir that it had struck a deal “to assign 35 percent of crude oil to France in exchange for its total and permanent support of the Council.”
NTC’s ambassador in Paris, Mansur Seif al-Nasr, told AFP he had never heard of the “Popular Front” that apparently issued the letter, and added: “All documents, all valid treaties are signed by the NTC.” The French foreign minister, Alain Juppe, said he “had no knowledge” of any deal to secure Libyan oil.
Meanwhile, France is not the only contestant in the international petrol race. Turkey seems to be a zealous rival with projects estimated to be worth $ 15.3 billion in Libya, and bilateral trade of about $ 2.4 billion in 2010. Since the beginning of the civil war, Turkish companies have suffered $ 950 million worth of unfinished projects asset in the country and 1.4 billion dollars of overdue payments. At present, Turkish companies still have $ 18.5 billion dollars of contracts in Libya. Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz has recently reaffirmed that Turkish Petroleum Corporation would restart operation in Libya as soon as the environment becomes safe for the normal operation of business.
And it was Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who called on the international community to quickly unfreeze Libyan state funds for Libyan opposition in August, and handed NTC’s leader Abdel Jalil $ 100 million in aid. Davatoglu also promised to grant Libya 200 million dollars in loans for post-war reconstruction.
The French government has also requested UN approval to gradually unfreeze the assets in France. It plans an initial release of 2.2 billion US dollars, one fifth of what it holds. The German Foreign Ministry says Germany has requested UN approval to gradually unfreeze 7.3 billion dollars.
The Sanction Committee of the UN Security Council has approved the British government to release $ 1.5 billion. The Security Council has been deliberating a new draft resolution to unfreeze all Libya’s overseas assets and officially recognize the NTC as Libya’s legitimate representative. The Security Council is expected to vote on the draft next week.
“The European Union has decided to end its embargo on six Libyan ports, several oil firms and banks,” the EU foreign policy chief said on 1 Sep. The EU’s asset freeze on 28 Libyan entities will end with immediate effect.
“Our goal is to provide resources to the interim government and the Libyan people and help to make the economy function again,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
The EU’s 27 governments reached a preliminary agreement on 31 Aug. to ease the bloc’s restrictions. The decision concerns in particular Libyan ports, as well as the energy and banking sectors. The EU has acted swiftly and its decision came just before the opening of an international “Friends of Libya” conference.
(Comment by Mariela Zamfirova, MBA; 2 Sep 2011)