DAVOS, SWITZERLAND – As helicopters continue to bring Chief Executives and world leaders into the Swiss alpine resort of Davos for this year’s meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Friends of the Earth has been reliably informed by WEF participants that a “secret” meeting of top oil executives is scheduled to take place here this weekend [1]. Friends of the Earth International – the world’s largest grassroots environmental network – has today challenged the WEF to either deny that such a meeting is taking place, or to come clean on which companies and governments are taking part and what is being discussed.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell is addressing the WEF today amidst evident concern amongst many WEF business leaders and protests across Switzerland. However, many WEF attendees in the oil industry are set to benefit from an Iraq war.

A recent Deutsche Bank report [2] indicated a potential conflict of interest amongst the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council over the commercial implications of war in Iraq. Baghdad Bazaar – Big Oil in Iraq was published last October but only came to light last week. It indicates that a regime change in Iraq would benefit US and UK oil companies while a peaceful resolution would benefit oil companies based in Russia, France and China:

“On the one hand, Saddam might yield on weapons inspectors issues, and therefore retain power. Having conceded on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), the UN would then be under pressure to ease sanctions and, in that scenario, Iraq would no doubt award contracts to its current supporters: Russia, France and China. With Saddam still in power, the US and the UK would probably continue to employ delaying tactics on implementation of deals that enhanced Baghdad’s revenue flows.

On the other hand, if Saddam’s government is replaced – as seem to be the priority for the Bush administration – and sanctions eased, then the corporate line up in Iraq may well feature US and UK companies, particularly if there has been a US driven war in the country.” – p. 14, Baghdad Bazaar, Deutsche Bank, 21/10/03.

The report identifies the following companies as potential beneficiaries [3], who are also participants in this year’s WEF meeting:

  • Vagit Alekperov, President and Chief Executive Officer, Lukoil Joint Stock Oil Company (Russian Federation)
  • Nick Butler, Group Vice President, Policy Development, British Petroleum – BP (UK)
  • Thierry Desmarest, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, TotalFinaElf SA, (France).
  • Sir Phillip Watts, Chairman and Chief Executive, Shell (UK/Netherlands)

Politicians and government officials present at the WEF include:

  • Colin Powell, Secretary of State, United States of America
  • Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister of Turkey
  • Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, United Kingdom
  • Cheng Siwei, vice Chairman of the Standing Committee. National People?s Congress, People’s Republic of China
  • Francis Mer, Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry, France
  • Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Saudi-Arabia

General (Wesley) Clark – former supreme Allied Commander for Europe, NATO is also present at the WEF.

Friends of the Earth International held a protest outside the WEF at 1pm this afternoon against the “secret oil meeting”. Protestors displayed a meeting “agenda” which included two items; 1) “Meet Powell” and 2) Iraq “who gets what?”. They were gagged and carrying placards saying “Not invited: Human Rights, Environment, Trust, The Public and Oil War victims”.

Tony Juniper, Vice-Chair of Friends of the Earth International said:

“The World Economic Forum loves to promote the so-called “spirit of Davos” – cosy fireside chats between the world’s most powerful Chief Executives and senior politicians. Now we learn that the WEF may be playing host to a secret meeting for the key players and beneficiaries of a war in Iraq – away from the media, the public and – most importantly – the United Nations. And all at a meeting where the WEF is claiming to be “Building Trust”! Friends of the Earth International today challenges the WEF to either deny that meetings are going on between top oil executives and senior politicians, or to declare exactly who is meeting who and what is being discussed.”

[1] Tony Juniper (Director of the Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and Silva Semadeni (President or Pro Natura ? Friends of the Earth Switzerland) are both full participants at this year?s meeting of the World Economic Forum.

[2] Traynor, J.J. Sieminski, A. Cooke, C. Urban, M. (2002) Baghdad Bazaar – Big Oil in Iraq – Deutsche Bank, 22pp, London/New York.
Copies of the Deutsche Bank report are available from Friends of the Earth

[3] Other companies named in the report include Kirkuk; Rumailah; Zarabuzhneft;Tunisia, ExxonMobil, TPIC (Turkey), Zarubezhnelt/Tatneft (Russia), Eni, Repsol and INOC

Contact details for Friends of the Earth International in Davos:
Tony Juniper: +44-7712843207
Miriam Behrens: 0792160206
Craig Bennett: +44-7810 558250