British oil interests are tightly interlinked with our governments’ recent political and military support for Gaddafi’s regime. Libya’s oil reserves – the largest in Africa – long had Western companies drooling. Shell beat its competitors to the chase, signing a $1 billion gas contract in 2004 during Tony Blair’s first visit to Libya. After three further years of pressure, BP secured a deepwater block the size of Belgium.
Tony Blair & Mu’ammer Gaddafi
Both deals relied on government support. Shell drafted letters Tony Blair sent to Gaddafi, while BP ensured that a Prisoner Transfer Agreement was signed. The Embassy in Tripoli lobbied and Prince Andrew was dispatched to charm.Confidential FCO documents reveal up to 26 high-level meetings with Shell about Libya.
The potential profits are enormous, with Libya largely unexplored, close to Europe, and in BP’s words “one of the safest places.” Safe, perhaps because of the repression and silencing of journalists? On Monday, BP stressed that offshore operations would continue, despite reports of massacres.
Both Labour and the Tories have foreign energy policies that prioritise British corporate control over oil reserves, enabling close partnerships with dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Oman, Jordan and UAE.
Yesterday, standing in Tahrir Square, Cameron preached about democracy. Then he met the same generals that commanded Egypt throughout Mubarak’s rule, and urged them to co-opt opposition. These generals are BP’s allies, offering the stability the company wants. Until we see a re-orientation of foreign energy policy away from supporting repressive regimes that let us control their oil reserves, our government will stand on the wrong side of justice and freedom in the Arab world.
David Cameron and Ahmed Shafik – one of longtime leaders of Egyptian military regime, now Prime Minister