Previously classified emails containing the transcript of a telephone conversation between former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and late Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi released by the US State Department have revealed that Blair told Gaddafi to find a “safe place to go.”
The conversation took place on Feb. 25, 2011 amid an uprising by the Libyan people in the context of the Arab Spring revolution against Gaddafi’s dictatorship.
In the conversation, which was transcribed by Blair’s head of strategy Catherine Rimmer before being sent to Hillary Clinton’s senior adviser Jake Sullivan, it was revealed that Blair suggested Gaddafi should step down and make way for a peaceful transition to democracy.
“The absolute key thing is that the bloodshed and violence must stop,” Blair told Gaddafi, according to the email.
“If you have a safe place to go then you should go there, because this will not end peacefully unless that happens and there has to be a process of change,” he added.
“If people saw the leader standing aside they would be content with that. If this goes on for another day/two days we will go past the point. I'm saying this because I believe it deeply. If we can't get a way through/out very quickly this will go past the point of no return.”
Gaddafi managed to hold on to power for another eight months following the conversation, before he was finally captured and killed by rebels in October 2011 in the city of Sirte, where he had been in hiding for two months.
Blair had been a close contact of Gaddafi after having ended the Libyan leader’s international isolation in 2004, and was in discussions to secure lucrative contracts for British oil firms in the country.
During the uprising, in which British RAF fighter jets along with other NATO allies bombed Gaddafi’s forces, Blair also reportedly attempted to intervene to the British government on Gaddafi’s behalf.
A new biography of current British Prime Minister David Cameron called Cameron At 10 by Sir Anthony Seldon claims Blair contacted Cameron was to say he was approached by “a key individual close to Gaddafi” to “cut a deal” with the UK.
At the time, Blair was serving as the Middle East special envoy for the UN, the US, the EU and Russia.
In 2007, Blair also apologised to Gaddafi for failing to deport two Libyan prisoners held in the UK back to Libya.