London, Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Chairman of the Libyan National Oil Company [NOC] informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Tripoli is seeking to give precedence to Russia and China – at the expense of US oil companies – with regards to the Libyan oil industry because of its dissatisfaction of the Obama administrations support for Switzerland in its current crisis with Libya. At the same time, the Libyan Charges d’Affaires to the UK, Omar R Jelban, revealed that Switzerland has issued a blacklist of 188 Libyans banned from traveling to the country, and that the names of the three Libyan officials charged with negotiating an end to this diplomatic crisis were included on this list. Jelban said that this indicates that Switzerland is not interested in resolving the crisis with Tripoli.
The crisis between Libya and Switzerland began after Switzerland arrested Hannibal Gaddafi in mid-July 2008. This led to Colonel Gaddafi issuing his call for a “jihad” against Switzerland, which was later ridiculed by a US State Department spokesman, causing tension between the US and Libya.
During a press conference held at the Libyan Embassy in London, the Libyan Charges d’Affaires revealed that Libyan Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Khalid al-Kaim, Foreign Ministry Director of European Affairs Ahmed Jaroud, and Deputy Director of the International Organizations department Murad Humaima, in addition to other members of the Libyan negotiating team, were included on the Swiss blacklist.
Jelban also revealed some other names included on the 188-member blacklist, such as Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi, all members of his family, as well as other civilian officials and military personnel.
The Libyan Charges d’Affaires only listed some of the 188 names, and refused to provide a complete list to the press.
Meanwhile, Dr. Shukri Ghanem, head of the Libyan National Oil Company [NOC] told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Libya is upset over the US position and the cynical comments made by the State Department spokesman about the Libyan leader’s call for jihad against Switzerland.”
Dr. Ghanem also revealed that his name was included on the list of 188 Libyan officials, and he asked “how can I negotiate with any country about oil while at the same time I am prohibited from being granted a visa to visit Schengen agreement states?”
Colonel Gaddafi met with Chinese and Russian ambassadors yesterday in Tripoli, in what appeared to be a message to the US. Dr. Ghanem was also present at this meeting, along with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa.
Dr. Ghanem told Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone that “this meeting came in the context of Libyan efforts to diversify the parties that it deals with in the oil industry” pointing out that China is a country on the rise and is continuously in demand for oil. Ghanem also said that it is important for Libya to strengthen its ties to China in all economic fields, including oil.
Dr. Ghanem added “There is exportation of Libyan oil to China, and there are also Chinese companies working in the country, and we are interested in strengthening these ties. Russia also has companies that operate in a good manner, and it is in a good position towards us.” He added “we want to strengthen and develop relations with Russia and China” and he criticized the Western and US contradictions on its stance towards economic freedoms and not mixing economics and politics.
Answering a question as to whether Tripoli intended to give Russia and China priority in the next phase, at the expense of US companies, Dr. Ghanem told Asharq Al-Awsat “The US stood with Syria, and the result of these US positions is that it is better that we look for other parties to work with” adding that Gaddafi’s meeting with the Chinese and Russian ambassadors is an indication of Libya’s desire for cooperation.
The head of the NOC also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “if you feel that the partner that you are working with begins to mix political positions with economic ones then you must take warning.”
Dr. Ghanem added “The Libyan officials tell me: if they are prohibiting you from travel, we in the oil industry must cut off oil from the companies that deal with them.”