“Sarkozy and Cameron welcomed as liberators by the Libyans,” proclaims Le Figaro on its front page after the visit of the French head of state and British Prime Minister to Libya. “Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron have taken advantage of this moment […] to reap the fruits of their determination. That two European leaders should be hailed so warmly in an Arab country while the continent is struggling with the debt crisis has something comforting about it,” writes the pleased conservative daily.
Across the Channel, The Independentconsiders it “a visit that Cameron and Sarkozy might have delayed”. While the two European leaders indeed had every right to be the first Western leaders to visit Libya after Gaddafi and were welcomed during a walkabout, “the enthusiasm of Libyans does not let the British and French leaders off the charge that their visit was made in unseemly haste; a case of too much, too soon,” the London daily writes.
The image of two heads of government lined up for the benefit of the world’s media was of far greater impact than the rhetoric, giving the impression of rich patrons swooping down to bless their successful project. This is an unhelpful impression, which risks reinforcing those who criticise Western involvement in the Libyan rebellion as little more than neo-imperialism.
Belgium’s *Le*Soirin turn describes the visit as “a diplomatic rush to Tripoli: the speed of the duo [Sarkozy and Cameron] has even pulled the rug out from under the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was expected in Tripoli that same Thursday, 15 September.” To be more precise: “It’s probably no coincidence that these attentions come at the same time as the modest resumption of Libyan oil exports.”