A day after the Libyan opposition and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both suggested that Muammar Qaddafi is exploring an exit strategy amidst intensified NATO airstrikes, we're getting wind of two rather bizarre diplomatic efforts by the Libyan leader.
We learn from The Independent that the Libyan officials have been secretly negotiating with Greece to unlock $20 billion of its frozen assets abroad for humanitarian relief on both sides of the conflict, as part of a peace agreement in which Qaddafi would cede power to an interim government with members of the opposition. The Greeks never signed the agreement they hammered out with Libyan officials because the French warned them that the deal would grant Qaddafi "legitimacy as Libya's ruler and undermine the policy of the Western coalition to keep him isolated," according to The Independent.
Why would Greece be negotiating covertly with the Qaddafi regime? And for Libya, isn't Greece an odd country to turn to, given that it's kind of falling apart financially, anyway? Well, Greece is in a bit of a bind. The country, after all, is a member of the very alliance that's currently bombing Tripoli, though it's only contributed airbases, a navy frigate, an aerial radar system, and a search-and-rescue helicopter to the NATO effort. But Greece and Libya have also traditionally enjoyed good relations. As Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos explained when the operation in Libya began, "Greece has a geographical proximity to Libya that renders us extremely important, militarily speaking. On the other hand, of course, it makes us cautious and guarded because this neighbourly relationship is constant, regardless of the political changes in Libya." In fact, the lines of communication between Greece and Libya have been open throughout the conflict. In early April, Libya's deputy foreign minister flew to Athens to tell Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou that Qaddafi wanted a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the country. A few weeks later, Libya's prime minister phoned Papandreou and requested Greek mediation to end NATO's campaign.
QADDAFI'S LETTER TO CONGRESS
The New York Times is reporting that Qaddafi has decided to engage with the U.S. Congress the way American activists have for years: a letter-writing campaign. In a note to members of Congress that appeared to be in reference to a House-approves resolution questioning the White House about the goals of the Libya campaign, Qaddafi wrote, "I want to express my sincere gratitude for your thoughtful discussion of the issues" and added that "we are counting on the United States Congress to its continued investigation of military activities of NATO and its allies to confirm what we believe is a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolution 1973," which authorized military intervention in Libya. The resolution, supported primarily by Republicans, did not recommend that the U.S. withdraw from Libya (in fact Speaker Boehner wants the U.S. to specify that its goal is to remove Qaddafi from power). The Obama administration received the letter through the same channels that Qaddafi has sent previous letters to President Obama. Meanwhile, the Republicans must be grappling with the fact that they now have an ally in Muammar Qaddafi.