Tripoli 17 February 2013:
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan flies to Turkey . . .[restrict]this week , to meet his counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, amid what appear to be intensifying efforts to sort out economic relations with the Turks, around 100 of whose contractors are owed some $20 billion in back payments and compensation.
Only last week Ankara’s economy minister Zafer Caglayan visited Tripoli with a large party of Turkish businessmen. He met Zeidan and Congress president Mohamed Magarief, before going on to see his Libyan counterpart Mustafa Mohammed Abufunas, Housing Minister Ali Hussein Al-Sharif, Finance Minister Dr Alkilani Abdel-Qadir Al-Jazi and Transport Minister Abdel-Qader Mohamed Ahmed.
Caglayan’s trip coincided with a Libyan-Turkish business forum at the Radisson-Blu, which drew a large number of Turks. However behind the standard expressions of hope for growth in trade relations and investments, there was some frustration that Libya had failed to act on promises made by the Al-Kib government, that the settlement of Turkish financial claims would be a priority.
One Istanbul businessman, who said his firm had long-standing Libyan connections, told the Libya Herald that although many Turkish firms had returned quickly to Libya in the wake of the revolution, very few large projects had restarted, because of outstanding payments and lack of compensation. “Turkish companies have credit lines like everyone else and they get very expensive, if they have been drawn to finance deals against which clients have made no recent payments. It is a simple reality that no company can afford to pick up where it left off without having a big lump of money on the table. This [payment] was promised. It has not yet been delivered. Nothing will happen without it.”
It was not clear this evening what other ministers might be travelling with Zeidan to Ankara in the coming days. However last week, former NTC head Mustafa Abdul Jalil met Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in the Turkish capital. Little detail of the encounter was revealed, except that Zeidan’s visit was discussed. Turkish sources however said that security was also high on the agenda. After Jalil had left, Davutoglu put in a call to Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi, to talk about both Libya and Syria.
The conversation may have focused on the deal which the Italian government appears to have clinched, to get €600 million of outstanding payments made to Italian companies. On 4 February, Foreign and International Cooperation Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz said that the Italians could expect to hear good news when Zeidan visits Rome shortly.