Thursday, August 25, 2011

Intervention at Libya Contact Group Meeting

William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Istanbul, Turkey

I want to join in thanking Turkey for hosting this meeting of the Libya Contact Group. It comes at an important, even historic, moment.

The events in Tripoli this week unquestionably represent a turning point for the people of Libya. The departure of the Qadhafi regime opens the door to a new future for Libya. But the situation on the ground remains fluid, and the fighting has not ceased. We must collectively continue to call for the immediate end to the violence, and to safeguard civilian life. Remaining Qadhafi loyalists should lay down their arms and join an inclusive transition now, for the sake of Libya.

We join the Libyan people in honoring those who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much for this outcome—the courageous individuals who defended their homes and communities against Qadhafi’s violence, and the nations and international institutions that came together to prevent a massacre in Benghazi and to support the people of Libya as they stood up to a tyrant. That so many nations and international organizations, including the UN, NATO, the African Union, the Arab League, the OIC, and the European Union, have stood together has made all the difference.

Now we must bring that same resolve to supporting the Libyan people as they rebuild their nation. Libya’s future is far from guaranteed. We know from hard experience that winning the peace can be more difficult than winning the war. We know that what happens in these critical days will help determine whether the people of Libya will be able to enjoy the dignities, freedoms and opportunities they have been denied for decades, and to which they are entitled.

Libyans have made this revolution. It is theirs. In a remarkably short period of time, the Transitional National Council has emerged as the representative of the Libyan people throughout the country and as an effective and reliable partner for the international community. For that reason, the Contact Group recognized the TNC as the provisional legitimate governing authority in Libya at its July 15 meeting in Istanbul. That recognition reflected the enhanced legitimacy of the council as it entered the final phases of the struggle against Qaddafi. In recent days, the TNC has gained further recognitions from, among others, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq, and Nigeria. It is now recognized by 54 countries.

The TNC’s assumption of governing authority also implied many responsibilities, as the TNC recognized in the assurances it gave this group last month. The TNC has committed to pursue a process of inclusive democratic reform, to uphold Libya’s international obligations, to respect human rights and to disburse funds in a transparent manner to address the humanitarian and other needs of the Libyan people.

Now more than ever, we will look to the Transitional National Council to live up to those responsibilities and to implement its transition roadmap. It is critical that the TNC continue to engage with stakeholders across Libya, including those who have served in the government in Tripoli, to form a new, inclusive interim authority that can ensure civil order, respect human rights, provide essential services to the people, and pave the way for a full democratic transition.

As the TNC’s roadmap makes clear, this new authority must represent all Libyans, from all tribes, regions, and minorities of the country. This demands a true commitment by all parties to national reconciliation—revenge attacks and reprisals must have no part in the new Libya. Libya’s future will be peaceful only if the leaders and people of Libya reach out to each other to make peace. And the TNC will need to look to the lessons learned by other countries that have gone through national reconciliation processes to ensure that the victims of Qadhafi’s violence and injustice over the years have credible, legally recognized avenues for seeking redress – and acknowledgement – of those injustices.

While this transition will be led by Libyans, it must be supported by the international community. The international community’s mission from this point forward is clear. We must increase and coordinate our support to the TNC, so it can fulfill its responsibility to provide security and basic services to the Libyan people and sustain its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and national unity of Libya. The point about coordination will be especially important in the weeks and months ahead. As the events on the ground evolve, so too must our international structures, to ensure we are well positioned to be a reliable partner to the new Libya. The international community owes it to the TNC to agree on our own division of labor so that we can provide support to the TNC as effectively as possible.

There are no shortages of challenges. The humanitarian situation continues to be dire; we must accelerate our help, including our efforts to unfreeze assets and make them available to the Libyan people, to whom they truly belong. Immediate Security Council authorization of the release of 1.5 billion in frozen Libyan funds, which we seek in New York later today, will be an important step in meeting the most immediate needs of the Libyan people.

NATO must continue to protect civilians under the mandate of UN Security Council Resolution 1973, for as long as that protection is necessary during this transition.

We thank Secretary General Ban, and his Special Envoy Abdul-Elah Khatib, for marshalling the international response to the crisis in Libya and supporting this political transition. We will continue to look to the UN, and its very able Special Advisor, Ian Martin, to respond to the needs and requests expressed by the TNC, and to help coordinate the international community’s support for the transition, from humanitarian assistance to technical, political and stabilization efforts, for as long as is necessary and appropriate. We will look to regional organizations and NGOs to do their part as part of the broader effort undertaken by the international community and the UN.

This will be complex, and require concerted effort and effective coordination. But it is critical for Libya’s future.

Together, we have helped save thousands of lives and supported a people’s challenge to the rule of a ruthless dictator. Now that the Qadhafi regime is nearly gone, our support for Libya will continue. The United States will stand with the Libyan people and our international partners in the weeks and months ahead, to help ensure a successful democratic transition. In this regard, we look forward to next week’s Paris conference for the new Libya.

Let us now maintain our efforts, stay focused on our goals, and increase our support to Libya’s new leaders, so they can carry forward the work of building a future of peace and freedom for Libya.

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