Time: Paris Conference On Libya’s Future Opens In Optimism (And Opportunism)
September 1, 2011
The conference marks the real start of what’s expected to be serious competition for business contracts in Libya between the same countries who banded together in the military intervention that eventually aided rebel forces to take control of the country. Italy—Libya’s colonial ruler—is known to be particularly wary of intervention-leading countries like France and Britain increasing their previous business footholds in Libya. European nations, meanwhile, are eyeing U.S. efforts to extend the activity of American companies that has steadily grown in Libya over the past decade.
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.
In other words, despite all the other security, political, and humanitarian issues on the agenda of the Paris conference, considerable attention and discussion will inevitably directed to business considerations between the NTC and other participants. With military operations set to give way in the coming months to reconstruction and business, it was probably tempting to open the Paris conference with the cry, “Let the games begin”. Problem with that is, they already had.