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Libya crisis/Contact Group meeting

Published on April 15, 2011
Visit to Doha – Meeting of the Contact Group on Libya – Press conference given by Alain Juppé, Ministre d’Etat, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs

Doha, April 13, 2011


Q. – M. Juppé, how did it go? Are you satisfied with this meeting?

THE MINISTER – It was an excellent meeting. It brought together all the contributing countries of the coalition, other countries supporting it, all the major organizations working with us, the United Nations Secretary-General, the Chairman of the African Union Commission, and representatives of the Arab League and Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Most importantly, beyond this participation, there was obviously total agreement on everything; firstly, our determination to apply in full the relevant Security Council resolutions, particularly UNSCR 1973.

What does this mean in practical terms? Firstly, that we think strong military pressure has to be maintained, I believe in fact the word used is “robust”, we’ll moreover be talking about this in Berlin tomorrow and the day after in order to continue really persuading Gaddafi that he has no way out. And, quite obviously, this military intervention must be aimed mainly at protecting civilians, we’re thinking particularly of Misrata.
Second important point: of course, carry on implementing sanctions. As for the ceasefire, we want to move towards one, provided it’s genuine. It isn’t simply about stopping firing, but, in accordance with the Security Council resolutions, it’s about Gaddafi’s troops withdrawing from the cities which were invaded, these forces returning to their barracks, and a genuinely controlled ceasefire.

As regards the sanctions, the military operation has a very clear objective which everyone reaffirmed: Gaddafi must leave power today because he’s lost all legitimacy to continue exercising it.

At the same time, we obviously think the way has to be paved for a political solution. We were very pleased – I think it’s a milestone – to hear Mr Jibril, who came and spoke at length on behalf of the National Transitional Council. Yesterday he was in Luxembourg, where he gave a very fine performance. I believe the National Transitional Council’s credibility emerged from it totally enhanced.

We’ve now got to create the conditions for the Libyans themselves – since they’re the ones who are going to decide their country’s future, not us – to bring all those round the table who have prepared this future: the National Transitional Council, which is ready to open up, of course, particularly to young Libyans; key figures in civil society who can play a role and then, from Tripoli, those who have understood that there’s no future with Gaddafi. On this we’re ready to support the National Transitional Council’s efforts to move in that direction.

For the time being, there’s no meeting place, we’re going to support the coordination of all the efforts being made. And this is the last point I’d like to emphasize: there was a consensus that the person considered best placed to coordinate these efforts was the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Mr Al-Khatib – who, incidentally, concluded today’s meeting and whom we trust to move this negotiations process forward.

Q. – So in your view, things aren’t getting bogged down at the moment?

THE MINISTER – Things aren’t getting bogged down – on the contrary, a very clear will was expressed. We’re going to meet again in Rome, and I think the Contact Group was a really good idea. I remind you that today is the first meeting of the Contact Group created in London, since it was an enlarged group which met in Paris and London. So an impetus was really given around the table; there wasn’t a single discordant voice on anything discussed. Moreover, from this point of view the final communiqué which you’ll see shortly, is extremely eloquent.

Q. – In the meantime, the National Transitional Council has asked for a lot more air strikes, to give the civilians better protection, pending the start of a political process. What will the coalition do?

THE MINISTER – I told you that we had asked – I did so, William Hague has already done so as well – NATO to take more robust action – I’m going to use the same words – in the mission with which it was charged by UNSCR 1973.

Admittedly there may have been, when NATO took over the command, a short time when things “slackened off”. We also have to make sure that the capabilities, the air capabilities are sufficient, and we’re appealing to all those who can come and help us; as you know, France is today supplying around a third of the usable planes.

We also very probably need to improve the coordination between the National Transitional Council, which is on the ground, and NATO, since in order to strike we have to know where we’re striking and we want at all costs to avoid any collateral damage to the population; there needs to be particularly thorough preparation, targeting – if I can put it like that – of the strikes.

Q. – Can we talk about the planes… (inaudible)?

THE MINISTER – There weren’t any offers today, but that’s more the job of NATO, it isn’t the job of the Contact Group; they’ve each got to do their own jobs. The Contact Group – and this has been clearly demonstrated today – is really in charge of steering the operation politically.

Saying that NATO must intensify its action is a political message addressed to NATO. Then it’s for NATO to see what operational capabilities this needs. Calling for a ceasefire under certain conditions and trying to coordinate everyone’s efforts so as to be able to launch a political process, that’s also a political message and it’s also the Contact Group’s job.

Q. – Will stepping up the military effort be on NATO’s agenda?

THE MINISTER – Yes, of course.

Q. – Did you talk about arming the rebels?

THE MINISTER – No, no, we can help them get the finance they need, to get stronger, but there was no question of supplying weapons.

Q. – Does helping them get the finance mean a fund?

THE MINISTER – On that point we didn’t go very far in spelling it out, it’s simply a goal which has been set and we’re going to work on it of course.

Q. – On the political transition, is Gaddafi’s departure a prerequisite?

THE MINISTER – We consider it’s no longer legitimate for Gaddafi to exercise power, and here too, there was total unanimity round the table. Does his departure have to precede the opening of the negotiating process or be concomitant? That’s a point we’ll have to see.

Q. – No discordant voices at all?

THE MINISTER – On Gaddafi’s departure?

Q. – On the joint declaration.

THE MINISTER – None at all.

Q. – On the different points?

THE MINISTER – None at all. The political directors spent a sufficiently long time preparing it. At the meeting, the delegation heads could have expressed divergent views. There were none; there was really complete unanimity. That’s why it was pretty swift.

Q. – M. Juppé, did you talk about recognition of the National Transitional Council? Up until now...

THE MINISTER – It all depends on what you mean by recognition. I think it’s still an argument about semantics. The fact that the National Transitional Council was here and that it was the only Libyan interlocutor here, is a form of recognition. Why would it have been asked to come had its legitimacy not been recognized? So taking that as the starting point, do we send ambassadors, high representatives?
I remind you that in terms of international law, we recognize States.

Today the National Transitional Council is obviously not the Libyan State or even the Libyan government. So it’s political recognition, as a valid interlocutor, perhaps not the only one, but at any rate, today, the only structured one in evidence. This, I think, was very clearly apparent yesterday in Luxembourg. Mr Jibril really made a very fine statement; he gave very specific and very frank answers all the questions put to him and that was again the case today. So I think that today there’s no longer any debate about that: the key interlocutor is clearly the National Transitional Council.

Q. – On humanitarian aid, are there proposals to provide security for it, to deliver it?

THE MINISTER – This is being done. All the countries involved signalled their desire to expand their effort: the Turks, Italians and French. Above all, it was the European Union which talked about it yesterday, there’s still a bit of discussion: should or shouldn’t this humanitarian aid be accompanied by military support? On this point, yesterday, the European Union didn’t take a decision, because the UN itself considers that there are no grounds for having military support for the humanitarian action.

We’re going to pursue the humanitarian action: planes and ships are arriving in Benghazi. France, I believe, is going to send another cargo of several tonnes of equipment and supplies. I remind you that the Italians and Turks are already participating in this effort. So the humanitarian aid is getting to its destination./.

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