Six months after hostilities against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi got underway, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy have convened in Paris representatives of some sixty countries and NGOs, as well as those from the Libyan National Transition Council, to mark the end of military operations and to sketch out the political transition and reconstruction of the “New Libya". In the background, lusts for the Libyan oil bonanza are stirring.

Libération writes of a "successful trial by fire in Libya, which puts France high in the saddle and into step with a new Arab world," and of a “diplomatic Blitzkrieg coupled with an audacious military gamble." It was a wager that "French oil companies could reap great benefits," the paper adds.

"In any case, it’s what’s written down in black on white in a document that Libération has obtained. The text is signed by the National Transitional Council (NTC), the transitional authority set up by the Libyan rebels. Certainly, it was common knowledge that the countries most committed to the insurgents would receive the most favourable consideration by the CNT when the day came – in particular, a number of petroleum contracts in hard cash. But this document clearly shows that quantified commitments were made several months back." In fact, the newspaper explains, from April 3 – or 17 days after resolution 1973 was adopted by the Security Council of the UN – the NTC signed a letter addressed to the Emir of Qatar, who was acting as go-between between France and the NTC. In the letter it was specified that the petroleum agreement with France would award 35 percent of the total crude oil to the French in exchange for recognition of the NTC as the legitimate representative of Libya.

"The phoney war in Libya was mainly intended for Paris"

France’s diplomatic triumph and energy coup are greatly worrying to Italy. Lagging at the rear of the coalition led by Paris and London, the former colonial power now fears being forced out of any share of the Libyan “oil-cake”. What is to become then of Italy, the country that "was the main economic partner of Libya and was linked to it by a Treaty of Friendship, signed at the cost of a misalliance?" asks La Stampa. "This Italy that today is in the second rank with ENI [the Italian oil and gas company partly owned by the state], which will have to scrap with the French and English for new energy contracts?” Well, the paper notes, Italy "is courting the NTC to salvage its contracts."

"The phoney war in Libya was mainly intended for Paris, and then for London. Nicolas Sarkozy will therefore try to reap the benefits of France’s commitment by leading the economic reconstruction. The presence of Italy in Libya will emerge fatally resized,” observes Marta Dassù, still in the pages of La Stampa. Recalling the historical hostility of the inhabitants of Cyrenaica – the region where the rebellion originated – towards Italy, the political scientist suspects the scope of Italy’s diplomatic manoeuvring will be limited.

"Italy had a lot to lose from the phony war in Libya. And yet it hasn’t lost. The [recent] visit of the head of ENI to Benghazi confirms that the firm is capable of safeguarding its own energy agreements…. After having been divided on the war, the Europeans have an interest in promoting an agreement among the successors to Gaddafi. The illusions of Franco-British co-ownership have crumbled in the Mediterranean before. They will crumble again if the Europeans in Libya fail to move beyond arguing over the ‘cake’. The common interest of Europeans, and the Libyans, lies in never having to regret the end of Gaddafi. After that, business will come to those who will be capable of it. That’s the only acceptable competition between the democracies of the Old Continent."

"Precarious political situation that risks being derailed by a scramble"

On the British side, no one is being fooled on the challenges of the post-war. As The Independent points out, “countries will be there [at the Paris conference] to see what they can get out of it." And when it comes to "getting the garbage collected, the water supplies running and the oil flowing to port in a petroleum-rich country, who gets the contracts?” The opportunities for Western meddling are endless, which is why so many Libyans and the Arabs more generally remain so cynical about the West's ‘humanitarian’ ventures.”

That is why, to avoid "a precarious political situation [that] risks being derailed by a scramble for personal enrichment," the Financial Times suggests that the "need for credible checks and balances on the energy sector mirrors the need for a larger constitutional settlement to permit Libyans to rule themselves as a free people."