Libya/second Contact Group meeting
LIBYA/TEMPORARY FINANCIAL MECHANISM
THE MINISTER – The latest meeting of the working group was, in my view, very positive.
Firstly, it allowed us to confirm that there was unanimous agreement, from the Contact Group and the powers represented, on the need to keep up every kind of pressure on the Gaddafi regime. Military pressure: we must intensify the strikes and more effectively target the military objectives in order to weaken the regime, which continues to use force against the people of Misrata and of other cities in Libya as well. From this point of view, the coalition is utterly determined. There are other ways of exerting pressure: I’m thinking particularly of the suspension of radio and television broadcasts and, of course, financial sanctions. I note too that the International Criminal Court Prosecutor announced that he was going to start a number of legal proceedings – this helps destabilize the regime, still with the same objective of getting Gaddafi, who has lost all legitimacy, to step down. That was the first, very important point.
The second point, for me, is the strengthening of the Transitional National Council, which people realize is the legitimate interlocutor today, and in fact the only one capable of expressing the Libyan people’s aspirations. From that point of view, Mr Jibril’s presence is very positive; he presented a road map, which very favourably impressed all the participants. To help them [the Libyans] both practically and financially, I welcome the fact that this Temporary Financial Mechanism which was planned in Doha is now well defined and can be operational, I think, in the next few weeks. The Americans announced that they would make contributions. I believe other countries are going to as well. France is going to look at her own contribution. We nevertheless stressed that the idea of releasing the frozen assets mustn’t be abandoned. It poses legal problems. As for the temporary mechanism, it will be operational sooner.
Finally, the third aspect of this meeting was, of course, the issue of political settlement. We’re thoroughly convinced that, however necessary military pressure is, ultimately the solution will be a political one. We welcome the fact that Mr al-Khatib is playing his full coordinating role as United Nations representative; he gave an account of his contacts. I explained that President Sarkozy’s initiative of having a “friends of Libya” conference is perfectly consistent with what the Contact Group is doing. The Contact Group is going to go on working, but at some point it will no doubt have to be enlarged – to include Russia, for example – and then, above all, the stakeholders of the future Libya will have to be invited round the table, i.e. the Transitional National Council, mainly, but also the traditional authorities – as you’ve seen, several tribes dissociated themselves from Gaddafi and were ready to take part in this process – and finally the third partner, so to speak: all those in Tripoli who have understood that there’s no longer any future with Gaddafi and are ready to embark on this process of reconciliation and national dialogue.
So those are the stages now ahead of us. I totally share the point of view expressed by both William Hague and Hillary Clinton: those people who talk about things getting bogged down are being a bit premature. This intervention is seven weeks old; more time is needed; it’s a matter of weeks or even months. There’s no question of letting things drag on. There has to be determination and perseverance, and this is what was explored.
Q. – The Transitional National Council says it’s at the end of its tether financially. You say there are legal obstacles to releasing the assets…
THE MINISTER – Because there are legal obstacles to releasing the assets, we’ve established an alternative solution that may work more quickly, namely the Temporary Financial Mechanism. This fund can be contributed to in several ways: gifts, loans and later, perhaps, the release of assets. It’s a response to the legal difficulty I was mentioning, so that the funds can be raised in the coming weeks.
Q. – Will France contribute to that fund? By how much?
THE MINISTER – I’ve told you we’re going to think about it.
Q. – Can you confirm that the TNC has been recognized by three more countries, and which ones?
THE MINISTER – I don’t have the list on me. There are three countries that have recognized it: Italy, France and Qatar. I don’t have a list of the others.
Q. – As for Syria, does France intend to call on Bashar al-Assad to step down? Do we intend to apply sanctions in relation to foreign travel and economic sanctions?
THE MINISTER – Our position is extremely clear: there are no double standards, contrary to what people are saying. First we asked Bashar al-Assad to take his people’s aspirations into account and carry out reforms. He didn’t really respond to this wish and he – he, the party and the team around him – chose to engage in a savage crackdown that’s leading to hundreds of deaths. We’re still very worried about what may happen tomorrow, because demonstrations are planned for Friday. Beyond that, we’ve condemned this attitude totally unequivocally, as we did yesterday.
We’re working at the United Nations to try to gather a majority at the Security Council to take sanctions; but that majority doesn’t exist today. The nine votes that would, in any event, be necessary to get a resolution passed aren’t there. We’re working on it with the British and a few others.
At European Union level, on the other hand, there’s a desire to adopt sanctions quite swiftly. We’re in the process of finalizing a list of the people who would have personal sanctions imposed in terms of their assets and travel. France wants Bashar al-Assad to feature on that list, because he’s the President and is therefore responsible for what’s happening. There’s no agreement yet, but the list will be adopted.
Q. – To get back to Libya, did you discuss this morning the possibility of troops on the ground to guarantee the humanitarian corridors?
THE MINISTER – Not troops on the ground, no; I remind you that any occupation force is banned by the Security Council resolution. Like others, we’ve sent a small handful of officers who have an advisory, training role and don’t fight. They’re not combatants. For us, there’s no question of sending troops on the ground. As for humanitarian aid, the European Union is ready to intervene. We’ve even defined what we call Eufor Libya – that is, military support enabling humanitarian aid to be sent where the situation is dangerous; I’m thinking in particular of Misrata, of course. In simple terms, the position we’ve taken is that we’ll only do it at the express request of the United Nations. Now, the United Nations tells us today that it doesn’t need it. So Eufor Libya hasn’t been launched.
Q. – And Mr Al-Khatib told you this today?
THE MINISTER – No, it wasn’t Mr Al-Khatib who told us. I think the Secretary-General said so. And it was mainly the head of the United Nations body in charge of humanitarian aid, OCHA, who told us she didn’t want it.
Q. – Where will the Contact Group’s next meeting be?
THE MINISTER – Let’s wait for a statement from the co-chairs, but it’ll be in an Arab country.
Q. – One final question: following the death of Osama Bin Laden, do you fear reprisals against the hostages of AQIM [al-Qaeda in the Maghreb] in the Sahel?
THE MINISTER – We’re being very vigilant. The terrorist threat, as I’ve said several times, hasn’t faded. So there are two possible interpretations: one that it’s weakened the terrorist groups affiliated to al-Qaeda and the other that it may radicalize them. I passionately hope that those intentions don’t exist, and in any case we’ll continue to keep up the necessary contacts to secure the hostages’ release./.