France is set to re-establish itself as an arms supplier to the new independent state of Libya, following a recent military contract between the two countries
In February, France signed a long-term contract with the Libyan government and agreed to refurbish Libya’s Mirage F1 fighters and also offer pilot training to the country’s air force. French defence minister, Gerard Longuet has been reported as saying that France is embarking on a long term cooperation with Libya in order to “neutralise the traffic in drugs, people and arms.” France manufactures the Dassault Rafale fighter plane, but at this time, the country isn’t actively promoting the fighter plane in the Libyan market. The de-mining of Libyan harbours and offering training for the military are seen as France’s primary short-term goals in Libya. The Libyan air force used to have 12 Mirage F1 planes but recent events have seen that reduced to two. Previously, Russia used to be a major arms supplier to Libya, and will be competing against France to re-supply the Libyan military.
Some cynical observers believe that the intervention by Nicolas Sarkozy, together with the UK and other NATO forces, to oust Gaddafi, was a bid to regain popularity at home, in an election year, by putting France to the fore on the international stage. France’s unique position within NATO as an individualist has often commanded respect among the non-aligned countries of the world and also served to encourage the US to take part in the UN 2011 security mission. The French intervention in the Libyan war could be seen as a triumph of French diplomacy.
The French regime is still seeking justice, following the 1989 terrorist attack on a French plane, believed to have been masterminded by the Libyan intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi. Currently a diplomatic battle is being waged between the international Criminal Court (ICC), Libya and France. The ICC want to put al-Senussi on trial for his activities which resulted in the attacks on countless unarmed Libyan civilians. The Libyans want al-Senussi to be returned to them in order that he can be brought to trial in the country where, it is claimed he was responsible for the murder of the 1,200 Abu Salim prisoners. France wants al-Senussi to be released into their custody in order to stand trial for the plane bombing.
Another benefit for both France and the UK, following their joint military intervention in Libya, has been a closer relationship between the two countries. At a recent summit held in London’s Lancaster House both nations pledged to strengthen their military ties. The communiqué issued as a result of the conference referred to the shared Libyan experience and both countries promised to “prioritise joint work in the key areas of command and control; information systems, intelligence, surveillance, targeting and reconnaissance; and precise munitions” (Lancaster House official statement 2012). With many potentially valuable military contracts on the table both the UK and France want to be in a position to benefit from their assistance to the National Transitional Council during the Gaddafi crisis.