Justice/reconciliation – Solidarity/reconstruction – Military operations – Niger/Gaddafi
THE PRESIDENT – First of all I’d like to say, on behalf of the French delegation, how touched Alain Juppé and I are by the Libyan people’s welcome. Of course, our commitment alongside the Libyan people isn’t over. As long as peace is under threat, France will remain at your side. Moreover, Mr Gaddafi must be arrested, and all those indicted by the international courts must answer for what they’ve done. We call on all those countries with wanted people on their soil to work with the international bodies to ensure they each answer for what they’ve done.
France is very committed to the unity of Libya and reconciliation among Libyans. France says to her Libyan friends, “look to the future together: no revenge, no settling of scores, respect for the rule of law”. But in order for everyone to forgive, every Libyan must know that those who committed crimes or robbed the Libyan people will be held accountable. There can be no forgiveness if there’s a feeling of impunity.
Alongside David Cameron, I’d like to say how happy and proud France is to have worked hand in hand with her British friends.
We told the NTC we were among the first to recognize that their demand – recognition of Libya’s seat at the United Nations General Assembly – is just, and that we’ll support them. We also told the NTC it’s up to Libyans to build the future and choose their leaders; it’s in no way up to us. But we’re counting on our friends in the NTC to maintain their unity, which is their most precious asset, and ensure this unity makes the transition period, the forthcoming elections and the next constitution possible.
Finally, I’d also like to tell the Libyan people they can count on the friendship and admiration of the French people. I’m thinking of battered cities, particularly Misrata, and the courage of those young Libyans who risked their lives to free themselves. We’ll stand alongside them to ensure that Libya remains united and regains her full place, that a future can be built for young Libyans, and that no young Libyans have to tell themselves their future lies outside their country. We have the Mediterranean Sea in common, we have a common destiny, and what we’re now building is valid for Libya and all those Arab peoples in the world who want to free themselves from their chains. France and Europe will stand alongside them for peace, democracy and economic progress. I think this message is, strictly speaking, a message for the 21st century. It’s the direction of history, moving towards peace and unity and not towards war and confrontation. Thank you.
Q. – In the context of French and British assistance for Libya, what measures will be taken by the NTC? Will France and Britain stand alongside the Libyan people in peacetime, as they’ve stood alongside Libya in wartime?
THE PRESIDENT – That’s a very important subject. Of course, France – and Britain, I imagine – will stand alongside Libya in peace and reconstruction. But I’d like to say to all the Arab public listening to us that there have been no agreements, no underhand deals about Libya’s wealth. We’re asking for no preferential treatment. We did what we had to do, because we thought it was just and because the world doesn’t need a clash between the West and the East. What the Libyan government decides will be fine, and if it wants to put its trust in our businesses, we’ll be very happy. But it should do what all law-based states do, through calls for tender. That’s the best reward Libya can give us: to act as a law-based state.
As for the documents published in certain sectors of the press, they’re forgeries. It’s tampering [with the facts], and neither Prime Minister Cameron nor the Libyan Prime Minister nor the Chairman of the NTC nor I have ever been involved in any such schemes. This had to be said, so that the Arab public knows that the NTC’s leaders carried out a just revolution and that the coalition got involved because it believed this revolution was just.
Q. – You and the British Prime Minister are the first two leaders to come to the free Libya. Six months almost to the day after the strikes began, how do you feel after meeting with so much criticism, and do you think the NATO strikes will continue for a long time?
THE PRESIDENT – The NATO strikes, as David Cameron said, will continue for as long as the leaders of free Libya believe the Libyans are in danger. There’s a job to be done; that job must be carried through with patience and determination. I’d like to pay tribute to the coalition soldiers, particularly the French and British soldiers, because our obsession was to avoid civilian casualties and ensure there wasn’t any so-called collateral damage. If we’ve been here with our planes and helicopters for six months, it’s precisely because our obsession has been to protect women, children, civilians – whereas Mr Gaddafi and his henchmen have used hospitals and schools. Chairman Jalil was right to say that Mr Gaddafi has gold and silver embezzled from the Libyans; so he’s a danger; so there’s a job to finish.
We met with criticism; this is normal in a democracy. When I hosted the first meeting with Alain Juppé and François Fillon in Paris, there were 21 countries; when I hosted the second meeting, there were 63 countries; and if we had one today, there would be even more. So let’s look at the future. Do you know what I was thinking, walking round the streets of Tripoli and the hospital corridors? I was dreaming that one day young Syrians will have the same opportunity young Libyans are enjoying today, and that one day they too can say: “democracy and peaceful revolution are for us”. So perhaps the best thing I can do is dedicate our visit to Tripoli to all those people hoping Syria, too, can one day be a free country. (…)
Q. – A question for Chairman Abdul Jalil and President Sarkozy: a number of those close to Colonel Gaddafi have taken refuge in Niger. Have there been discussions and contacts between the NTC and these individuals, and do you fear that some African countries are ready to take in or offer asylum to Colonel Gaddafi? (…)
THE PRESIDENT – Alain Juppé and I will contact the Niger authorities. I want to say that we have confidence in them, that the last presidential election in Niger was a democratic election which signalled major progress for that country and we have no reason to question whether Niger’s leaders will respect international law.
The NTC Chairman has asked us to intervene; this will be done tomorrow. All the world’s dictators have got to understand that in the 21st century world, there is nowhere they’ll be able to guarantee their impunity. Impunity is over. Thank you./.