To infinity and beyond
28 November 2015 09:22 (South Africa)

Sarko and Cameron take a lap of honour in Libya, upstaging Erdogan

  • Khadija Patel
  • Africa
Sarkozy Cameron Libya

British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicholas Sarkozy received a warmer welcome in Libya on Thursday than they would in their home countries. Both leaders face stern challenges at home but on Libya, they have been bullish. Their trip into the warzone was as much a lap of honour as it was an animalistic marking of territory. They can do no good at home but in Libya, they’ve emerged smelling of roses – and a whiff of oil. By KHADIJA PATEL.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would have been the first world leader to visit the new Libya. He announced his itinerary for a jaunt through North Africa more than ten days ago but he was upstaged by Cameron and Sarkozy who arrived ahead of the Turk in Libya. The Turks were left bristling but Sarkozy and Cameron strode into Libya as if it were their birthright. They were certainly in a hurry to get to Libya too. It has only been three weeks since rebel forces, backed by Nato bombers, overran Tripoli. Large swathes of the country remain beyond rebel control for now but  Sarkozy and Cameron promised in Tripoli to help hunt down Muammar Gaddafi, and to hand his frozen assets to his successors.

They did not quite have the pick of the oil fields but the European leaders received an undertaking from the interim leader of the National Transitional Council (NTC) that those “key allies” who had assisted the rebels in ousting Gaddafi would receive preferential treatment when business contracts were drawn up in the new Libya.  Sarkozy was left with the onerous task of denying talk among Arab leaders of "under the table deals for Libya's riches". It is not the first time that the motivation of the  French lead in the military intervention in Libya has been questioned. In March, Erdogan accused France of seeing Libya as a source of “oil, gold mines and underground treasures”.   “What we did, we did without any agenda because we wanted to help Libya, because we wanted to prove there was no enmity in east-west relations,” Sarkozy told reporters in Tripoli.

Cameron said a Franco-British move at the United Nations on Friday could mean $19 billon of assets would be unfrozen in Britain. Leaders like Cameron, Sarkozy and Erdogan are impetuous and mercurial. They revel in the limelight and will fight each other for the spotlight.  "Let us be clear: This is not finished, this is not done, this is not over," Cameron said.

Oh no, it is not. Erdogan is yet to visit after all. DM

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  • Khadija Patel
  • Africa

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