A brand-new relationship between Libya and Germany

Oct 16, 2004 02:00 AM

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's two-day visit to Libya was crowned with the signing of big deals in the energy sector, ushering in a brand-new relationship between Libya and Germany and even further reconciliation between Libya and the European Union.
After attending the inaugural ceremony of an oil exploration project run by Germany's Wintershall in Jakhira, some 992 km south of Tripoli, Schroeder told that he was impressed by Libya's efforts to integrate itself into the international community and its willingness to further open up to the outside world.

The German chancellor, accompanied by dozens of businessmen, including those from Siemens, Lufthansa, Hochtief and Bilfinger Berger, highlighted huge cooperation potentials between the two countries and voiced his belief that Libya's energy potentials would offer enormous opportunities to German enterprises.
Sources close to the German delegation revealed that the deals on oil, gas, telecommunications, infrastructure and tourism were valued at about $ 650 mm.

Libya, with a proven oil reserves of over 47 bn barrels, ranks the fourth among Germany's oil suppliers, after Russia, Norway and Britain. Germany, Libya's No. 2 trading partner after Italy, imports roughly 14 % of crude from Libya to meet its annual oil demand.
Later on, Schroeder attended a business meeting, which was aimed at finalizing preparations for a German-Libyan business forum slated for Nov. 28-30 in Tripoli. Schroeder, the first ever German leader to visit the north African country in 25 years, was accorded a red-carpet welcoming ceremony in the airport, where Libyan Prime Minister Shokri Mohammed Ghanem and Foreign Minister Abdul-Rahman Mohammad Shalgam were among those greeting the German guest.

Schroeder went straight into talks with Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi in the latter's Bedouin tent, the same venue for a meeting between the veteran Libyan leader and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in March. According to Libyan officials, Gaddafi and Schroeder discussed bilateral ties and issues of Iraq and the Middle East during their lengthy talks.
Moreover, the visit raised the hope of Libya to join the so-called Barcelona process, which envisages closer cooperation between the EU and 10 Mediterranean countries and eventually the creation of a free trade zone. A German official said that Schroeder pledged to support Libya’s membership bid. Libya currently takes part in the process as an observer.

Schroeder's visit came three days after the European Union lifted an 18-year-old arms embargo against Libya imposed when the country was accused of supporting terrorist organizations.
The trip was planned after Libya finally agreed on Sept. 3 to sign an agreement to pay $ 35 mm in compensation to victims of a German disco bombing 18 years ago. The attack on La Belle nightclub in 1986 in the then-West Berlin killed two US soldiers and a civilian woman and wounded about 200 people.

The trip was also against the backdrop of a noticeable thaw in relations between Libya and western countries after Libya stunned the world last December with its decision to renounce weapons of mass destruction programs.
In addition, Libya agreed last year to pay $ 2.7 bn compensations for the 1988 bombing of the US Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people. Following Britain's Blair in March and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who paid a visit to Libya earlier, French President Jacques Chirac will come to Libya later this year.

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier visited Tripoli earlier October to pave the way for Chirac's trip, which became possible as the one condition France set for reconciliation with Libya was met after Libya agreed in January to compensate for victims in the 1989 bombing of a French TUA airliner over Sahara desert in Niger, which killed 170 people.
However, one hurdle is ahead on Libya's road to full-blown reconciliation with the EU. Several Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor were sentenced to death in May by a Libyan court on charges of infecting dozens of Libyan children with HIV virus. The EU expressed deep concerns and regret over the death penalty. Bulgaria hopes to join the EU in 2007.

In contrast to Libya's swift reconciliation with Europe, the pace of normalization of ties between Libya and the United States seems a bit slow as the latter has assumed a more cautious attitude toward Libya's olive branch.
Although diplomatic ties between Libya and the United States were resumed in June and US President George W. Bush lifted most economic sanctions against Libya, Libya still remained on the US list of states sponsoring terrorism.

Source: Xinhuanet
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