It is not surprising that the relationship between Qaddafi and Meles has evolvedcarefully. The two leaders are very different. Qaddafi is mercurial, unpredictable andfrequently impractical. Meles is predictable, strategic and usually practical.
Libya was a strong supporter of Eritrean nationalism, including Isaias Afewerki’sEritrean People’s Liberation Front, from 1969 through 1975. Following the 1974 coup inEthiopia and takeover of the government by Mengistu, Qaddafi ended his support for Eritrean liberation groups and switched his support to Ethiopia in 1976 or 1977.Following Eritrean independence in 1993, Libyan-Eritrean relations began slowlyto improve. In 1995, Qaddafi tried without success to mediate a dispute between Sudanand Eritrea, which centered on support for opposition groups in each other’s country.Early in 1998, Isaias visited Tripoli and established formal diplomatic relations. In June1998, Qaddafi began efforts to mediate the Eritrea-Ethiopia border conflict that broke outa month earlier. He proposed a ceasefire, a Sahelian-Saharan peacekeeping force and border arbitration. When Eritrea accepted the proposal and Ethiopia did not, Qaddafihelped finance Eritrea’s military campaign against Ethiopia. Isaias began a major campaign to cultivate the Libyan leader and in just the second half of 1998 made fivevisits to Libya. Isaias and Qaddafi have been good personal friends ever since.In 2000, Libya successfully helped to end a dispute between Eritrea and Djibouti.Isaias visited Tripoli in 2002 for discussions on trade agreements. A hiccup in therelationship came to light as Eritrean refugees and illegal immigrants, especially thosetrying to escape military service, made their way to Libya en route to Europe. This became an embarrassment for Eritrea and a problem for Libya. They faced harshconditions in Libyan detention centers. In 2004, Libya placed 75 Eritreans on a Libyanair force plane. When told they were being returned to Eritrea, four of the Eritreanshijacked the plane and forced it to land in Sudan. Libya continued to return some of therefugees/illegal immigrants to Eritrea as recently as this year.In 2006, Eritrea announced the translation of Qaddafi’s
into Tigrinyaunder the auspices of the Libyan International Study and Research Centre. Isaiasreturned to Libya in November 2006 to participate in a heads of state meeting chaired byQaddafi to find a solution for the conflict in Darfur. A Libyan delegation visited Asmaraa few days later and signed a memorandum of understanding on investment cooperation.In 2007, a senior Eritrean delegation attended a meeting of representatives of nationalassemblies in Tripoli. This was curious as Eritrea does not have a national assembly.Isaias and senior military leaders then joined counterparts in Tripoli from Chad, Sudanand Libya to discuss problems between Chad and Sudan. The same countries sentdelegations to Asmara at the end of the year to continue their deliberations.In 2008, Eritrea initiated a border conflict with Djibouti; Isaias appealed toQaddafi to resolve the dispute. He was not successful. In 2009, Qaddafi visited Eritreaand described relations as strong and continuing to gain momentum. In March 2010,Isaias visited Tripoli where he held discussions with Qaddafi and the chairman of CEN-SAD. Libyan investment in Eritrea was high on the agenda. Tamoil Africa, which isowned by Libya, now has service stations in Eritrea.3