Monday, May 17, 2004

work in progress 

African Oil Politics went silent for a while: the blog is undergoing some change. More about it later this week.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Abu Ghraib: shock (of) values 

It's so sickening, I can only thing with other people's words. First, from Samuel P. Hungtington:"the West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do."

Then, Martin Luther King Jr.: "The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: 'This way of settling differences is not just.'"

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Tullow Oil - Energy Africa deal 

As Tullow Oil is about to buy Energy Africa, analysts in South Africa are commenting the de-listing of Energy Africa from the JSE Securities Exchange:

The question that remains is whether Energy Africa will stay listed in South Africa. It seems unlikely that Tullow will want to retain a listing in London and Johannesburg. If Energy Africa loses its African listing, it is going to lose a key competitive edge. It has good management but one of the more successful avenues of business has been partnering other large oil groups on the African continent, often with a minority stake. Its heritage on this continent helps smooth the way in other African countries where African-based oil groups with the necessary skills and resources are scarce, and governments are reluctant to be seen to be pandering to multinationals intent on exploiting their natural resources.

I'm not sure governements will be turning down the world's biggest independent oil company focused on West Africa and the North Sea.

US-Sudan: tit for tat 

Last year, on 20 January 2003, Libya was elected president of the UN Human Rights Commission. The United States protested strongly. A year later, both countries are on friendly terms. A similar story may be underway with Sudan:

Sudan won an uncontested election on Tuesday to the United Nations' main human rights watchdog, prompting the United States to walk out because of alleged ethnic cleansing in the country's Darfur region. Sudan's delegate immediately shot back that the U.S. delegation was "shedding crocodile tears" and turning a blind eye to atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers in Iraq against civilians as well as against prisoners.

Libya: the genie is out  

* Gaddafi's visit to Brussels left a strange feeling to some American oberservers:

By pretending that he has reaped the full economic benefits of the West while ducking serious reform, Qaddafi confirms the belief, shared by the gang of dictators who hold a monopoly on power in the Arab world, that the commitment of democratic countries to reform is, at bottom, superficial. By playing up his terrorist bona fides, meanwhile, Qaddafi gives credence to the Middle Eastern shibboleth that the West will embrace repressive regimes even if they cling to their support for terrorism. Casting the unreconstructed Qaddafi as a model of reform thus betrays the Bush administration's eminently admirable vision of regional change.

* An unsigned article in The NYT goes in the same Gaddafi-bashing mood and blasts the Libyan leader as never before. The author warns Europeans that "Colonel Qaddafi remains true to the bloody creed he has professed throughout his career. European leaders should be as steadfast in scorning this enemy of democracy and human dignity." What about the United States?

* All these warnings come a bit to late. It's either hypocrisy or sheer naïvety. After the lifting of the most important sanctions, business-as-usual has been allowed to resume. No harsh words will prevent oil firms such as Canadian Talisman from trying to strike exploration deals in Libya.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Fridayblog: Maltese falcon rising 

The enlargement of the EU and the lifting of US economic sanctions towards Libya will put Malta on the strategic map. Now the enlarged EU's southernmost member, the Mediterranean archipelago will be placed in the center of the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue.

Its three islands being geographically closer to Tripoli and Tunis than to Rome, capital of its nearest EU neighbour Italy, Malta sees itself as a diplomatic and economic stepping stone to southern Mediterranean rim countries like Tunisia and Libya.

The Libya-Sicily and Sicily-Malta gas-pipe should increase the strategic relevance of the archepelago:

Three agreements have been signed between the Maltese government, Agip and Snam Progetti for the building of the Libya-Sicily and Sicily-Malta gas-pipe and the start of a campaign for to explore for off-shore oil in Maltese territorial waters, for which Agip has obtained a 30 year concession at the cost of three million dollars. Urso declared, "this country has many advantages to offer including its strategic position, its closeness to western markets, the efficiency of its natural harbours and the various facilitations offered by foreign investors in the financial and credit sector". There is already a special relationship between the two countries. Italy is in fact the only country to maintain a technical and military assistance mission in Malta (since 1973), which carries out training operations with the Maltese armed force. (our emphasis)

In the sanctions years, Libya had used Malta to deal with western companies. The new visa agreement between Libya and Malta will make it easier for citizen of both countries to do business. As for the United States, the US embassy in Malta is discussing ways to take advantage of the new landscape. The film noir continues...

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