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Meeting of G8 foreign ministers

Published on March 18, 2011
Joint press conference – Statements by Alain Juppé, Ministre d’Etat, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs (excerpts)

Paris, March 15, 2011

LIBYA/NATIONAL TRANSITIONAL COUNCIL

(…)

Q. – Given the difficulties in achieving international consensus, wasn’t it at least premature to recognize the Libyan National Transitional Council?

THE MINISTER – Were we too quick to recognize the National Transitional Council, based in Benghazi? I’d simply like to remind you we were also criticized for recognizing the Tunisian transitional government too late. You see how criticisms sometimes cancel each other out.

Why did we consider the National Transitional Council to be a political interlocutor? Because today it’s the only body that brings together representatives, men and women, who are fighting against the dictator in Tripoli. People object on the grounds that it includes former Gaddafi ministers. I don’t know of any revolutions in which the revolutionaries, before becoming so, didn’t take part in running their country in the previous period. So I don’t think this objection is appropriate.

And I’d also like to stress that all 27 members of the European Council last Friday came to exactly the same position, believing the National Transitional Council to be a political interlocutor that has to be worked with.

Q. – You’ve just said France recognizes the Libyan National Council as a political interlocutor. Has it been said that France recognizes the Libyan National Council as the sole legitimate interlocutor in Libya?

THE MINISTER – “Has it been said” by whom?

Q. – Is France’s position to recognize the National Council as an interlocutor and not the sole interlocutor?

THE MINISTER – Today, as I’ve just said, no other interlocutor has been declared. But if it emerged there were other representatives of what I’d call the Libyan liberation movement, we’re obviously ready to talk to all those who are representative.

For the time being, it’s the National Transitional Council that is the interlocutor.

NO-FLY ZONE/AIR STRIKES

Allow me to add one point: I wouldn’t like this issue of the no-fly zone to become the centre of all discussion. I’ll confine myself to two points on that subject:

What enabled the Gaddafi regime to upset the balance between the opposition and himself? The use of air power. If he hadn’t been able to bombard certain military sites, indeed civilian sites, Gaddafi would doubtless have been unable to regain ground, which he’s continuing to do.

We, the French and British, had envisaged proposing to our partners not a no-fly zone – contrary to what’s been said – but the use of air power for targeted strikes on airports or the 20 or so aircraft the Libyan regime has. This proposal hasn’t borne fruit and so today the context is different, because the situation on the ground has evolved a great deal.

DIPLOMACY

Q. – Are you going to conduct an exchange of diplomats between Benghazi and Paris, as the National Council has announced? And what are you going to do to help the opposition to Gaddafi?

THE MINISTER – On the first point, what exactly is the situation today? First of all, we withdrew our diplomats from Tripoli for security reasons.

The Gaddafi regime then suspended diplomatic relations; I say “suspended”. We took note of it and I’d also like to thank Russia for defending France’s interests, given the situation in Tripoli.

Regarding Benghazi, we’re in the process of seeing how to get diplomats there in complete safety. I remind you that under international law you recognize States, and the National Transitional Council isn’t a State; it’s not a government either, today. So it’s a gesture of political recognition, as I said, and nothing else.

SANCTIONS

In order to help Libya in concrete terms, I’m glad that the G8 has agreed to call on the Security Council as soon as possible – that is, before the end of the week – to adopt a mechanism enabling us to help the opposition currently in Benghazi. I’m not going to prejudge what the Security Council decides – a raft of measures may be envisaged: enhanced sanctions, identifying humanitarian zones, a maritime embargo’s been talked about… All these options will be studied at the Security Council. As Sergei Lavrov said, we attach the greatest importance to their being studied with the Arab countries.

It’s being ruled out – we’ve said so several times – that NATO or even powers from north of the Mediterranean might intervene on Libyan territory. It’s up to the Arab League and the other Arab regional organizations, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the African Union too, to shoulder their responsibilities. It’s with them that we want to work in the coming days. (…)./.

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