Libya: The Path Toward Reengagement

Posted by David Welch
September 5, 2008
Welch Libya Signing

About the Author: David Welch serves as the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.

Libya is in the midst of an historic process of reengaging with the broader world after 30 years of isolation. In the past five years, the transformation in our bilateral relationship with Libya has been considerable. No longer does Libya sponsor terrorism, and no longer does it threaten its neighbors with a clandestine WMD program. Libya serves as a model for other countries that have renounced isolation from the community of nations.

It hasn't always been easy. When I joined the State Department in 1977, we already had a contentious relationship with Libya that would worsen over the succeeding decade. During the 1980s, several terrorist attacks targeting American and Western interests touched many American lives, including mine and the close-knit State Department family. Among the many victims of the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, were two Diplomatic Security (DS) agents and a close friend of mine with whom I had served overseas. The 1989 bombing over Niger of a French airliner (UTA 772) claimed the life of the then-U.S. Ambassador to Chad's wife, whom I also knew. You can find the agents' and my friend's names today inscribed on the array of plaques in the State Department lobby that commemorates the men and women who have given their lives in the pursuit of American foreign policy. There is also a plaque commemorating family members who have equally sacrificed for their country.

On August 14, our two countries concluded a comprehensive claims settlement agreement to resolve outstanding claims of American and Libyan nationals against each country in their respective courts. I believe the process this agreement establishes is the best way to provide rapid recovery of fair compensation for American nationals who have terrorism-related claims against Libya. It will also bring a measure of justice for the many American families who have been waiting for this outcome for more than 20 years. The negotiations lasted three months, but in truth the State Department, and oftentimes I, had been working toward a solution for several years out of a sense of duty to the many Americans affected by these tragedies, including our fallen comrades and friends. We will pursue full implementation of this agreement, to start a new chapter in our relationship with Libya.

Today, Secretary Rice will make an historic visit to Libya. She will be the first Secretary of State to visit Libya since 1953 and will also be the most senior U.S. official -- and only U.S. Cabinet-level official -- to meet with Libyan Leader Muammar Qadhafi since he took power in 1969. This is an important visit that will underscore our commitment to assist Libya as it completes its WMD obligations. It will underscore our vital partnership against terrorism and our expanding cooperation in many other areas, including education and culture, science and technology, commerce, and human rights and good governance. We have pressed and will continue to press Libya -- in public and in private -- to improve its human rights record and immediately release political prisoners. Our relationship with Libya has changed for the better, and it is in our mutual national interests to continue to deepen our engagement with Libya and its people.

Comments

Comments

Dan
|
Maryland, USA
September 5, 2008

Dan in Maryland writes:

@ Ambassador Welch -- A diplomatic success with honor. Great work here by the State Department towards "turning swords into plowshares." Thank you for your dedicated service to the U.S., and for always remembering and seeking to honor those who have fallen to the terrorism.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
September 6, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Ambassador Welch,

Times like this give one hope for a saner world, and the family of nations.

Well done everyone!

Welcome back, Libya.

Syrian P.
|
Syria
September 6, 2008

SNP in Syria writes:

One of the World's most notorious terrorist of the 20th Century, one that have financially, militarily and logistically supported every terrorist organization and groups in the last 50 years the world's over, from the Philippine to Argentina, Muammar Kaddafi brutally and dictatorially, for decades, brutalized his people and those of other nations is now accommodated and Re-engaged by the West and America, just for a fist full of oil. The blood trails of innocent women and children that his support Dollars spent to kill and make mayhem yet to dry when David Welch inked his partnership document with Dictator-Terrorist Kaddafi. This is not an event for Americans to be proud of accomplishment this is when American should be ashamed.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
September 6, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ SNP, I know you are probably bent out of shape that Assad is trying to make peace with Israel, but nappy time's over.

Wait for it, Assad will pull a Ghadaffi, abandon his WMD's and walk the same path.

P.S. Here's your reality check for the day:

Secretary's Remarks: Interview With Zain Verjee of CNN
Sat, 06 Sep 2008

(excerpt)

QUESTION: How much is the agreement and the warming of ties with Libya about oil?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's really about the strategic decision that Libya took to --

QUESTION: But Libya has strategic oil reserves.

SECRETARY RICE: Absolutely. And there's nothing wrong with that. You know, we do need -- we absolutely need reliable sources of oil and gas from diverse sources. And the international economy needs it. And let's remember, oil is a commodity, and so when there are increases in the capacity of Libya to produce, it will not just be good for the United States and its needs for oil, it will be good for the international economy and its needs for oil. And so, of course, we look forward to commercial activity here, to investment in Libya's substantial potential in energy.

But it's broader than that. It is about terrorism and fighting terrorism. It is having gotten rid of the weapons of mass destruction. It is about trying to help see this be a more open society through the exchange of students. You know, the thing when I was talking to people, I realized that the people who are in my age group -- not yours, my age group --

QUESTION: I have gray hair. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: Many of them were educated in the United States. And there's a whole generation for which that isn't true. And since we believe that access to American education, access to the United States, is one of the most important things we can do, it is very good that there will be more Libyans doing (inaudible).

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
September 7, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

@ SNP in Syria

Actually, Syria and Libya share a much closer relationship with each other than either do with the US. If you're really that upset about it maybe you should lodge those protests with your own government first?

It is true that Kaddafi is probably personally responsible for many deaths, but recently, no doubt prompted by the US army in close proximity and recent economic hardships, he has taken a number of steps to repair some of that damage. He has denounced terrorism (doubtful, but he did say it), turned over the suspects of the airplane bombing, paid out billions of dollars in restitution, and let foreign powers dismantle his chemical weapons factory.

What more would you want him to do?

Is the US motivated by oil interests? Yes, of course, but so is every single other country that imports it, and there are other US interests involved here, too. Regardless of who's in charge, no matter how morally despicable they may be, as long as one country has what another country wants, there's going to be relations between the two.

Do I agree with the US/Libya partnership? Not really, except to encourage Libya to begin judicial reform. I think if we spent even a quarter of the money on developing our own renewable energy industry that we do trying to bargain, bully, and court oil producing countries, we wouldn't be in most of the messes we find ourselves.

If Syria focused more on political reform instead of economic, it would be the beneficiary to the positive aspects of US involvement rather than the negative.

Syrian P.
|
Syria
September 8, 2008

SNP in Syria writes:

What do SNP or personally got to loose if Assad opted to become another laughing stock coward, a typical Airab like the rest of them. My relation is with Iran's Mahmood Ahmadinejad and he is not going for silly peace with the Hagganeh State because no silly-made up U.N. sword over his head and neither out of office until past 2012 critical period as the Ayatollah Khemenei assured us.

As long as Iran maintains the military and economic strength required to insure dominance in the region and keep the Israeli where they belong, surrounded with 40 feet high wall concentration camp, SNP is in a happy camper. I think who really will be bent out of shape if Assad opted to visit the Knesset and hands out his WMD which Syria will need badly in the near future, is his eminence the Ayatollah, defender of Islam and Moslems, but he is not taking any chances, IRGC already with Hezbollah taking positions all over Northern Lebanon and the Mountains of Akkar, looking with naked eye at Homs and surrounding region (the arrowhead that is pointed in the belly of the beast as Sarko said of the area a week ago). Only ignorant, strategically challenged Jews or Americans who lost every conflict they started in the 20th Century will not appreciate the development in Lebanon and its ramifications.

I think President Assad is much more intelligent than the Jews and ZIO-Sarko, SNP has confidence in him to become a great Syrian Leader who will be credited in his life not to some shady humiliating Sadat like cowardly act of surrendering a great nation to the Gypsies Hagganeh Zionist Khazzars, but will be remembered as the one that put Syria on the road to become one of the Middle East great economic development success stories. Although sometime we get concerned, his Excellency, President Assad has our trust and we do understand his effective strategy. As proven in the past Eight years he had developed acumen like his late father to play all sides to Syria's advantage.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
September 8, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Assad claims to want a WMD -free Mideast, and that is a common goal with the US.

In any case, I've already offered a few thoughts on the matter here on Dipnote. Wait for it.

It's Libya's oil, their potential revenue, and they too have an interest in selling it on the global market.

And that is good for everyone globally because this takes strain off the supply side.

Bottom line is that the Libyan people will benefit from more economic opportunity, educational exchange, and a long term, peaceful relationship with the US, Europe, and the MENA region.

The opportunity for partnership against terrorism has been embraced , and regional crisis like in Darfur have greater potential for cooperative efforts between Libya and the US now that the relationship has become more dilomaticly normalized.

It is a little curious that al quaida has remained silent in the face of this serious defeat.

I guess there's no way they can put enough spin on it to make it look good for recruiting purposes....(chuckle).

.

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