International Affairs — 01 September 2011
“Friends of Libya” lining up to get paid

The governments of the West were firmly coddled up to the Gaddafi regime up until February this year. A new day, a new set of friends.

As the NTC hosts what has been called the “Friends of Libya” conference in Paris, co-hosted by Libya’s new “best friends” French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron – countries are lining up to compete over lucrative oil and infrastructure contracts. Those who led the NATO backed “Contact group” such as Britain and France expecting their altruistic humanitarian help to stand them in good stead when coming to divide the spoils, while those who were less supportive such as Russia and China expecting that previous agreements remain honoured.

A number of articles have outlined the competition over economic interests. The best example that undermines the idea of the NATO led intervention was for purely humanitarian reasons being the document that details an agreement with the France (the most robust, early supporter of the uprising against Gaddafi’s regime) that would guarantee them 35% of total crude oil contracts in exchange for a permanent alliance with the NTC.

Time’s Bruce Crumley has summarised it as follows:

“That international jostling risks being most active in the coming weeks due to the economic stakes in Libya being perhaps largest for foreign players in the early post-war period. Much of Libya’s huge oil industry has been diminished due to fighting, sanctions, or destruction over the past year, and a huge source of funding tin he country’s looming reconstruction will come from resumed oil production and the revenues that brings in. And with existing contrast having been signed by a Gaddafi regime that a growing number of foreign governments no longer recognize, the NTC will have a free hand choosing partners in rebuilding its oil facilities, and operating them afterwards.

Indeed, given the stakes involved in that sector alone, it’s a little hard to believe the mantra that the Paris conference is one of utter selflessness and altruism. The skepticism increases against indications already surfacing that the rush to secure oil contracts has in fact been under way for months. On Thursday, French daily Libération ran an article and photo of a NTC document written and signed last March  just 17 days after Paris succeeded in its push to get UN resolution 1973 passed authorizing sanctions against Gaddafi and approving the air intervention to protect civilians from his advancing troops. According to Libération, the NTC document details “the oil accord agreed upon with France in exchange for the recognition of our Council”, which “attributes 35% of (Libya’s) total crude oil (business) to the French in exchange for its total and permanent support of our Council”. In March. Talk about naked short selling of futures.”

All of which undermines any moral claims for NATO intervention in Libya by those who have been suggesting that the intervention provides a model for the responsibility to protect doctrine (the fig-leaf certified by the UN to cover “liberal intervention” of Western nations within the framework of international law).


Among some of the statements emerging over the last day or so out of the five countries that make up the five permanent members of the UN Security council:

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland

“They are themselves very interested in getting oil flowing again, the gas flowing again. It’s a rich country”

Michel Casals, head of the Franco-Libyan Chamber of Commerce

“We have to go step by step, but we must take advantage of this favorable climate for French companies even if the quality of our competitors, whether Turkey, China or Europeans, is strong,”

Senior British Whitehall official

“British oil companies have been major players in Libya and I’m sure that they will want to get back in there.”

UK Trade and Investment, the Government’s business-promotion department, will send a team to Tripoli “very soon”.

Mikhail Margelov, Russia’s Africa envoy

“We intend to present our view of the process of creating a new statehood in this country, and we also intend to exert some influence on the process and uphold Russian economic and other intersects in Libya,” he said

Wen Zhongliang, deputy head of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce’s trade department

“We hope that after a return to stability, Libya will continue to protect the interests and rights of Chinese investors and we hope to continue investment and economic cooperation with Libya

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