Libya: The Petrol Partitioned in Paris

This afternoon, the western powers will assemble in Paris, officially to “pave the route” to post-Gaddafi Libya. Each party will be likely to fight for its share of the country’s petrol.

They have called themselves a “contact group on Libya”. They consist of more or less all the western powers that have rallied to the NTC. The main performers will be Italy, which is coming to defend the interests of its oil company ENI and is afraid of losing part of its market share in the Libyan black gold to BP and Total. These two groups have been virtually absent from this country, which houses Africa’s largest oil reserve. Behind the bellicose enthusiasm shown by the UK and France these past months, agreements have already been signed.

So far, according to French newspaper Libération, 35% of Libyan oil has been promised to Total, who exploited only 2-3% of this reserve under Gaddafi. It is not known yet what share BP has received. From this stems ENI’s fear, it having already had to recall workers from Libya. This also explains the presence of Hilary Clinton, as the US is concerned for the durability of deals made between Gaddafi and American oil companies less than a year ago.

The big losers will be China and Russia; both are likely to lose their portion of the winnings. Russia hurried this morning to recognise the NTC as the official power in Libya, in an attempt to contain its diplomatic losses.

What is surprising in this conflict is the unrestraint that has characterised the occidental dealings with Libyan oil. Interrogated on that point on Thursday morning by RTL, French Minister for Foreign Affairs Alain Juppé said he found this “fair and logical”. Better still, numerous channels have gone so far as to report that the restarting of petrol businesses in the area by large western corporations was the priority, long before the well-being of the Libyan people. And naturally, not one word regarding an eventual public energy service.

Here, therefore, is what has occupied the minds of the self-proclaimed “Friends of Libya”. During this time, the World Food Programme (WFP) has tried to call attention to the humanitarian catastrophe that has come about in Tripoli. The city is destroyed by months of bombardment and war, food stocks are exhausted and an increasing flow of refugees must be dealt with. The NGO has sent 600 tonnes of emergency food and 500,000 litres of drinking water.