Sunday

29th May 2022

France: Libya war marks new chapter in EU-US relations

  • Sarkozy said the war in Libya was 'politically and morally just' (Photo: elysee.fr)

The EU will in future play a bigger role vis-a-vis the US in providing hard security in north Africa and the Middle East, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said.

Speaking to French ambassadors gathered in Paris on Wednesday (31 August), the French leader said the war in Libya is a "lesson" for EU foreign policy: "Europeans have shown for the first time that they are capable of intervention in a decisive way, with their allies, in an open conflict on their doorstep."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

He added that the Libya model - in which France and the UK took the lead with American support - marks a new division of labour between the EU and US: "The world is changing. [US] President Obama has presented a new vision of American military engagement which involves the Europeans assuming their responsibilities."

Sarkozy noted the union should also play a bigger role in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

"The role of the US [in the Middle East peace process] is incontrovertible and irreplacable, but everyone can see it is not sufficient. It is necessary to enlarge the circle of negotiators ... We must keep in mind that the European Union is the top economic partner of Israel and the top aid donor to the Palestinians."

On Syria, he added that the EU will do "everything legally possible" to help topple President Bashar Assad, while underlining that any European involvement in "morally and politically just" conflicts must have a UN mandate.

Sarkozy spoke on the eve of a summit in Paris on Thursday of the so-called Libya Contact Group.

The meeting will bring together 60 high-level delegations from Western and Arab countries that supported the Nato strikes on Colonel Gaddafi, as well as anti-interventionists China and Russia and senior officials from the African Union, the Arab League, the EU, Nato and the UN.

In a reflection of Sarkozy's new-model EU-US relations, the meeting will be dominated by France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, which are sending their leaders. The US will be represented by secretary of state Hilary Clinton, while China and Russia are sending third- and fourth-tier diplomats.

Thursday's summit is to symbolise the end of Gaddafi's rule, which began with a military coup also on 1 September 42 years ago.

Delegates will also listen to Libyan rebel leaders - the Transition National Council (TNC) - outline their future needs in terms of finance and a potential UN-led peacekeeping mission.

The UN is step-by-step unfreezing tens of billions of euros' worth of Gaddafi assets around the world. It has also put together plans to quickly send in 390 unarmed military observers and policemen to help keep the peace. Its Libya troubleshooter, UN official Ian Martin, has spoken with two unspecified UN countries about leading a potential "multinational force" in the country. But the TNC has indicated it does not want foreign soldiers for now.

Sarkozy and US officials in their remarks on Wednesday underlined that the Libyan people will play the lead in shaping the new country.

But with French construction firms and Italian energy companies already sending high-level missions to Libya to scoop up contracts, Asian and Islamic powers have voiced concerns about Western intentions.

A US secretary of state spokesman noted on Wednesday that Libya is a "rich country. Yeah, I mean, there are assets that we - that the international community is beginning to try to tap into."

For its part, the People's Daily, a Chinese government newspaper in a prickly op-ed published the same day said: "The West has never given up its scheme of dominating the development directions of west Asia and north Africa. The dominance is connected with economic interests, naturally. Though the smoke of gunpowder has not fully dispersed in Libya, Western oil companies' fights for the oil have already started."

US nemesis Iran has also started talks with the TNC on future relations.

"If ... arrogant powers and international Zionism, including the tyrannical US regime, succeed to ride the waves [of the Arab Spring] and take the lead, the Muslim world will be faced with big problems for tens of years,” Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei said in a rare public statement ahead of the Paris summit.

East Timor could serve as model for UN mission in Libya

Unarmed UN-hatted police supported by African Union and Arab League soldiers as well as Nato air-lift and sea-lift capabilities is emerging as the preferred model for a post-Gaddafi peacekeeping mission in Libya.

Opinion

Was Eufor Libya an April fool's joke?

International action was crucial to prevent a massacre in Benghazi, but the EU must do more in security terms to get the new Libya on its feet, writes Ana Gomes.

Opinion

The Gulf exception

The EU will cluck approvingly at so-called reforms in Gulf states. But why hold elections for bodies lacking any real power?

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Opinion

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us