Time for the thaw: France release $2 billion frozen Libyan assests
As it looks to secure investment from Libya, France says it is ready to start releasing almost $2 billion in frozen assets belonging to Libya's sovereign wealth fund.
The announcement was made France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius during a recent visit to Tripoli, the latest in a series of high-level French political and business delegations to the OPEC member.
As part of wide-ranging international sanctions against the former Gaddafi regime that along with a number of NATO countries it helped to oust, France froze about $8-9 billion in assets the former dictator held in France.
Speaking to Libya's National General Congress, Fabius said: "France is committed through me to immediately begin unfreezing the funds of the Libyan Investment Authority estimated at $1.865 billion,"
The speech did not refer to the other outstanding funds. But Fabius' predecessor, former foreign minister Alain Juppe pledged to help Libyan authorities recoup all their frozen assets.
During the visit, Fabius, who was accompanied by France's Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg was due to discuss Libya's reconstruction and the sovereign wealth fund's interest in taking over a refinery in Normandy owned by insolvent Swiss refiner Petroplus.
The Socialist government of President Francois Hollande is anxious to curry investment from abroad amid high domestic unemployment and a stagnant economy, and also hopes to secure a rescue of Petroplus' Petit Couronne plant, the oldest refinery in France that was placed under legal protection after the company filed for insolvency last year.
Montebourg was quoted saying by Reuters that France could co-invest alongside Libya's sovereign wealth fund if the fund takes over the plant that was put under legal protection after its Swiss-based owner Petroplus filed for insolvency last year.
Fabius said Monday that Paris had already released another $1.8 billion in other Libyan assets.
Last week, the chairman of the Libyan Investment Authority said that a court in Rome had also ordered the release of the fund's stakes in Italian bank UniCredit and defence group Finmeccanica.