As more countries formalise their support for the Libyan opposition, the Qadhafi regime, failing anymore to make stable military inroads, is showing visible signs of seeking a diplomatic bailout from the current crisis.
On Monday, Italy along with Qatar, adopted concrete measures that would allow the opposition to fulfil its national aspirations. The Italian government formally recognised the Benghazi-based Transitional National Council (TNC) — a move that would allow the opposition to sell oil to Italy, the largest consumer of Libyan oil in recent years. Simultaneously, Qatar is helping the opposition to market exports, and ensure that the revenues from oil sales enter new bank accounts that the opposition can access.
In a precedent-setting move, Equator, an oil tanker which can carry one million barrels of crude, has on Tuesday arrived at the Marsa el-Hariga export terminal, near Tobruk, to load oil bound for Qatar.
Once assured of a steady flow of petro-dollars, the TNC would have the resources to run its administration, buy weapons and undertake reconstruction in the aftermath of the war.
Ready for talks
In Tripoli, Moussa Ibrahim, government spokesman expressed readiness for talks with the opposition, which could cover a range of issues including elections and referendums.
However, two issues are at stake: the content of a ceasefire deal and the mechanics of political transition that would be acceptable to both sides.
On Friday, the opposition had proposed a ceasefire, provided the pro-Qadhafi forces pulled out of cities and areas that they have occupied. Diplomats say that the government is ready for the ceasefire, but has refused to pull out forces, which are battling the opposition in several locations, including the eastern oil town of Brega, and Misurata, Libya's third largest city.
Regarding the political transition, Mr. Ibrahim said Libyan strongman Muammar Qadhafi, without foreign interference, must be in charge, to steer the change.
The emphatic support for Mr. Qadhafi came within hours of a report in the New York Times, that the leader's two sons, Seif-el-Islam and Saadi-el- Qadhafi, were ready to marshal the transition towards a constitutional democracy, without their father in the picture.
The suggestion that regime figures could steer the transition was met by a stormy response in the opposition stronghold of Benghazi. The European Union, Malta and Greece also spoke in unison about seeking the exit of the regime of Mr. Qadhafi , which included his sons.
With the situation calling for mediation, Turkey has stepped in prominently, after Britain and France, on account of their hawkish stance towards the regime, virtually ruled themselves out, as possible intermediaries. On Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced that Ankara had commenced a process of engaging the two Libyan adversaries for a ceasefire, after meeting Libya's Deputy Foreign Minister Abdelati Laabidi.
“We will do our best so that the suffering in Libya comes to an end in the shortest possible time and that a roadmap is outlined in a way that would include political changes in line with the demands of the Libyan people,” said Mr. Davutoglu.
He added that the members of the opposition were aware of Turkey's intentions, and Ankara, “in the coming days” will host a TNC delegation arriving from Benghazi.
Hoping to build solid grassroots support in the opposition held areas, Turkey, with considerable focus and energy, has been reaching out to Libyans, trapped in the battle zone.
By Tuesday, three Turkish cargo planes bound for Benghazi were to unload medical equipment “to set up a field hospital there to treat wounded people who cannot be transported here,” Mr. Davutoglu said.
Meanwhile, the United States, escalating mind-games to encourage defections, has decided to end the freeze on bank accounts of the former Libyan Foreign Minister, Moussa Koussa, who has defected to Britain.
Tanker arrives to load oil bound for Qatar
Oil money to run administration, buy arms
Keywords: Libya oil sales