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Diplomacy in Action

Background Briefing on Secretary Clinton's Trip to Paris


Special Briefing
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
August 31, 2011

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MS. NULAND: Okay. Before we start, we’ll just go quickly through the schedule so you all know what’s happening. The Secretary will have a bilateral meeting with President Sarkozy. She will also have a bilateral meeting with TNC Chairman Jalil. There may be other bilateral meetings to be determined. Then the high-level meeting on Libya will begin at 4:30 at the Elysee Palace. It’ll go for about an hour and a half and then move directly into a dinner of the high-level group. And then the Secretary will have a press availability.

So with that, let’s go to Briefer Number One on what we expect from the meeting.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Good. Thanks. I’ll just do a couple of things about what we expect from the U.S. point of view and the international community and then turn it over to Briefer Number Two on what we might hear from the TNC.

The Secretary leaves tonight for what has been described as a high-level meeting on Libya. The attendance is likely to include some 60 countries and 10 international organizations, which will include the UN, the African Union, the Arab League, the OIC, NATO, and the European Union as well as the TNC – obviously a much wider group than we’ve had in previous contact groups and that’s why this is something different. And as I’ll explain in a minute, this is really sort of a bookend of, if you will recall – and I think you were all there – the Paris and London meetings that took place before the Contact Group was set up.

What are we going to try to achieve here? First of all, we want to pay tribute to the Libyan people. And that’s one of the things we’re going to emphasize here is that the Libyans are really in the lead, and we want to hear from them about what their needs are. And so symbolically, it will underscore the role that they have played and, as I say, pay tribute to the courage they’ve shown in leading this revolution. Ultimately, they’re the ones who are going to determine the future of Libya, but it’s clear the international community can help, just as the international community has helped so far.

And this Paris meeting really should mark a transition from one important phase to another. As I say, it sort of bookends the meeting that was in President – chaired by President – in Paris chaired by President Sarkozy on March 19th, which was accompanied by then the UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973, and then the next meeting in London which established the Contact Group, which then led on, of course, to the meetings that have since been held in Doha and Rome and Abu Dhabi and Istanbul.

Obviously, the United States – Secretary Clinton, has been intensely involved in this process throughout, attending all of these meetings, leading the international community. And what we will try to accomplish here is helping the Libyans as they turn the page and mark this transition, and we want to hear from them what their needs are in the area of humanitarian assistance and in the area of financial support. And I note there – and you know how hard we’ve been working on this question of unfreezing assets and getting them financial support, going all the way back to the creation of the temporary financial mechanism; and most recently, just in the past two or three days, we have succeeded in getting the Sanctions Committee in New York to unfreeze, first, 1.5 billion in frozen assets in the U.S., and then just yesterday, another 1.6 or so from the UK. So that’s $3 billion that will be critical in helping to meet some of these needs.

So that’s really sort of the picture of what we’re trying to do, and maybe [Senior State Department Official Two] can pick up on this question of what those needs are and what the TNC, who will be asked to present first at this meeting, will have to say.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. I think that with – when we look to what we expect to hear from the TNC leadership, I think there’s several things. Number one will be, obviously, an update of where they see the situation. Obviously, the situation in Tripoli looks much better today in terms of stabilization, in terms of combating pockets of resistance, than it did last week, but there still are some trouble spots.

And then obviously how they’re – how they see the situation with respect to two major areas, Sirte and Sabha, there are various processes going on – some – there are some efforts at trying to negotiate the surrenders of those place – those places. We don’t know how that will fall out, but we hope to hear from them how they see that, perhaps how they would like to deal with the Qadhafi situation, any guess of where he might be and what plans they may have with respect to him. I don’t think that they’ll go into that detail, but it may be a question that comes up in the course of the day or two.

We also – I think they’ll also want to give us a good sense of what the humanitarian situation is in Tripoli and certainly in the rest of the country to the extent that they can speak to it, because if they’re going to go forward in this, I think two things are key. Number one is that the security situation is stable, and number two that the humanitarian needs of the population, especially in Tripoli, with respect to water, power, food, gasoline, is met, because that will really be a key test in these first few days in terms of their ability to show what credibility they have.

Beyond that, I think – and we’ll then look to them to give us – I think to reaffirm the kind of image that they – vision that they have of how they see the next few days, weeks, and months going as they begin to establish authority in the country, the political process that they will hope to go through. They have laid out some comments on that. There’s a draft constitution around, and they’ve laid out kind of a staged process by which – which would hopefully end at some point down the line in elections. So I think that we’ll want to hear about that.

And then also in terms of how they intend to deal with the human rights, et cetera, these are issues – and treatment of prisoners. They know that there’s a lot of concern on the part of the international community which is already, in fact, holding them to a fairly high standard when you think about the treatment of prisoners, in terms of retributions, in terms of reconciliation, et cetera.

The third part of what I expect that we’ll hear from them is how they would like to interface with the international community now that we’re beginning to, as we look ahead to the next several weeks, assuming that the situation in Sabha and Sirte is managed and that we can move on to do what they want to do, obviously, the UN will play an important role in that, so there will be a question of how the UN effort will interface with that. And I think that we’d like to come out of Paris, I think, with at least some semblance of how the international community will deal with the various needs that the TNC has as they move forward.

And I mean, just looking, the needs are enormous, A to Z. As I’ve said before in several interviews, I mean, that Qadhafi has left them a fairly, for want of a better word, a shattered country in terms of institutions, in terms of divisions, in terms of what they have to do with respect to contracts that were let out before. So they’ve got a major challenge on their hands, and I think that what we want to do is to try to find a way to make sure that the – that we do it in the most efficient way that they want us to contribute to this. And I think that would be the third part of the message that they would give.

MS. NULAND: Great. Let’s do one round of questions. Matt, do you want to start?

QUESTION: I don’t really have anything except for – I mean, what is it that you expect the Secretary to say or do tomorrow that has been different than what has happened in the past or what the message has been from the podium and from you all in the last couple of days?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think, as we’ve tried to suggest, we’re entering a new phase here. I mean, for the past six months, there has been the agenda – there’s been one agenda, protecting civilians and enforcing the Security Council resolutions, which we all believed might necessitate Qadhafi leaving. And now he is no longer in power, so that’s clearly the end of one period and the beginning of another. The beginning of the other --

QUESTION: Right. But what is the U.S. specifically hoping or what is she specifically hoping to see or say out of this meeting that moves things forward?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I think there are two sets of things that, again, we’ve tried to introduce. One is to understand what – now that there has been a transition and now that the TNC is no longer the rebels or the opposition, but in the process of moving to Tripoli and establishing a government in this country, there are, understanding from them what their – these are new needs now. The humanitarian situation is different, the financial situation is different. The security situation, the police situation is different. So hearing from them what the new needs are and how we can respond to the new needs instead of the old needs. The old needs was a different set of issues. So clearly, that’s one more urgent set of – something that’s different from the past.

And secondly, we’ve been talking all along about the importance of ultimately establishing democratic, inclusive, legitimate government in Libya. That was a sort of longer-term objective until now, and now it’s before us. And that’s what we need to focus on in the present.

QUESTION: But you don’t – do you expect her to announce anything particularly – in particular towards that end, or either of those ends, from the U.S. point of view?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We’ll leave any announcements to her. But I think --

QUESTION: No?

QUESTION: Can I ask something?

QUESTION: Well, wait. Should we expect her to announce something?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: She’ll say what she has to say. I mean, I’m not going to pre-announce an announcement.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I’m not asking what she might announce. I’m just asking, is there going to be any news in this for us, or are we basically wasting our time going over – flying to Paris for 30 hours? I mean, come on.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: If you don’t want to go to Paris, Matt --

QUESTION: This is a background briefing, for God’s sakes.

MS. NULAND: Okay. Welcome to my world. (Laughter.)

I think our main objective here, as the guys have made clear, is first and foremost that we have sat with the TNC, they have done a lot of planning on what they think they might need when they get to this phase. Now that they’ve gotten to this phase, they’ve begin – begun to see what’s up and what the needs are in Tripoli and the rest of the country. We really need their report so that the international community can sit with them and plot the next steps. And with regard to how she might articulate U.S. concrete support for that, let’s let her do that tomorrow.

QUESTION: I have a couple of questions.

MS. NULAND: Andy.

QUESTION: One is that Toria from the podium has mentioned several times that Libya is a rich country, and you’re talking about all these needs that they’re expected to have. Is there, in this meeting or looking ahead, any expectation that the international community is going to be tapped for serious financial resources to help them? Or is there thinking that they’re – they’ve got enough money once they get the oil up and running that they’re going to be able to finance it themselves?

And the second question is on Sabha and Sirte. How worried are you that either of those situations could go seriously wrong? Do you think that that’s a real threat or is this just sort of an endgame that’s going to play itself out inevitably and we will get beyond that in the next week or two?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think in terms of the – this is a rich country. Yeah, I mean, there are assets that we – that the international community is beginning to try to tap into and get to them in a rational way in the first instance. And in the second instance, as you mentioned, the potential for the oil resource to come back online is going to be very important for their future. So I don’t anticipate that there’s going to be a huge donor kind of issue. The problem may be that in the beginning stages, they may need some bridge loans to help, depending on what the assessments are with respect to the rebuilding of infrastructure, because I don’t think we really have a good sense right now of what exact damage has been done. So it may be possible – and this has not been broached in any way, shape, or form yet – that there may be some kind of bridge loaning from the IMF perhaps, or from the World Bank, but I don’t see this as a huge world donor --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: No, no, no. Obviously, Libya has a lot of assets that have been frozen. What we’re trying to do now is to unfreeze them so that they can access their own funds, their own resources. In terms of assistance, I think what we’re likely to see is not a request for financial assistance but technical assistance. And the UN is well placed to sort of coordinate requests for this. I would anticipate the UN will be in the lead, but the Libyans will definitely be in the driver’s seat. This has got to be a Libyan-led process.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Second question on Sabha and Sirte – look, you have Qadhafi and you have his two most dangerous sons, Mutassim and Saif, still at large. That, in any instance, would pose a danger. But I think that the TNC has been trying to convince those various commanders and tribal leaders in those places that enough Libyan blood has been shed, and I think they’re trying to make every effort to try to bring that to a peaceful conclusion. Again, they’ve been very clear that if it’s not brought to a peaceful conclusion, that they will have to resort to some measure to bring it to a conclusion of some kind, which they apparently – they don’t want more bloodshed, but they’ve made it clear that if it has to be, it has to be. But I think that we have to give them credit for the efforts that they’re making.

QUESTION: It’s Elise. Can I follow up on the UN?

MS. NULAND: Go ahead, Elise.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Hi, Elise. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Hey, guys. Thanks for doing this. So you talked about the UN obviously being in a position to provide technical assistance but the Libyans are going to be in the driver’s seat. Do you get the sense that they kind of – I know that there’s this sensitivity that now they’re there, you don’t want to be the people coming in and telling them what to do, but do you think they really have a sense of how much international help they’re really going to need in terms of policing, in terms of building capacity, and I mean, how concrete do you think the discussions tomorrow are going to be in terms of shaping a possible UN mission?

And then also, what are you advising them on in terms of reconciliation? And I know, again, you want to leave it to them, but learning – lessons learned from Iraq and stuff like that about making sure that there are elements of the former regime, not disbanding the military, things like that. I mean, what are you advising them, keeping in mind that they’re the ones who are going to be making the decisions, just in terms of kind of keeping stability in the country?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, you know that several times we’ve mentioned that we’ve had a fairly robust planning process here in Washington. The Europeans have had one, the UN certainly, and we’ve all been kind of lashed up together, and in conjunction with our envoys on the ground in Benghazi. But the Libyans, too, have had a very, very robust planning process as well, which we hooked onto, basically, several weeks ago.

And the answer to your question is -- are they aware of the – of what they need, I’ve been quite impressed, quite honestly, with the extent of the detailed planning that they’ve done. And in fact, we’ve had – we’ve brought the whole interagency process here to bear in terms of the expertise that we’ve had in various other – in other instances. And there’s not a lot of gaps in terms of what we came up with and with what their group came up with. So I think we all have a fairly good sense of the universal set of issues that they’re going to have to deal with on every particular aspect, whether it’s economic, political, diplomatic, or whatever.

On reconciliation, on decommissioning of arms, these are all issues that we have certainly had a discussion with them. They’re aware of it. They have their own ideas. They want it to be, obviously, Libyan-led. But at the same time, they have not, obviously, said that we don’t want any help from the outside. They’re smart enough to know that in certain areas that they’re going to need the skills that the international community can bring on these various different subjects.

There’s a sensitivity. There’s no doubt about it. And it’s a sensitivity that gets to, not only a historic sense of invaders coming into Libya and occupying them, but a sense that the TNC has to be very, very careful in these initial days because they have been accused, over the last several months, of being stooges in certain – in – from certain quarters. So they have their own domestic body politic that they have to respond to, too. But I think they’re going to be very moderate in terms of that, and I think that there will be a good symbiotic process that will be agreed to at some point between the international community, what it wants to do, and what the Libyans see as their needs.

QUESTION: But do you – just to quickly follow up, [Senior State Department Official Two], do you anticipate some concrete parameters or something of a UN mission, or is it premature?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, I think the UN is prepared to go in and to do its assessment, and they have an idea of the kind of mission that they think they’d like, but I think that all has to be negotiated. They have to get a sense of what’s happened on the ground and then have discussions with the TNC in Tripoli itself. And I think once that happens over the next few days and weeks, we’ll have a better sense of the dimensions of what the UN will be doing and how all of us can kind of fit into that – into the overall umbrella of the UN, as well as what we might each do on a bilateral basis.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. NULAND: Lach.

QUESTION: Yeah. On the future role of NATO, how much of a discussion will there be on that? And what kind of role do you see NATO playing? I don’t think the rebels want peacekeepers, but what could happen?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, first of all, this isn’t a NATO meeting, and any decisions on NATO’s future will be taken by NATO. At present, the NATO mandate is still in effect. NATO is assessing how long it should remain in effect and how to transition out of it when appropriate. For now, as you know, the NATO mission is to protect civilians from attacks and threats of attacks and to enforce a no-fly zone and an arms embargo. Obviously, as I was saying before, the situation is now fluid and in transition, and NATO is assessing when it might be appropriate to transition to another type of assistance mission, but at present that the Operation Unified Protector goes on.

There obviously will be a number of NATO countries represented in Paris who will have the opportunity to exchange views on this, but any decision about the future NATO countries represented in Paris who will have the opportunity to exchange views on this, but any decision about the future NATO operation will be for NATO to take. NATO has begun planning for potential support roles in some other capacity in support of another organization like the UN on a provisional basis, but no decisions have been taken about what type of role. But to get to specific (inaudible) we don’t envisage any peacekeepers by NATO in Libya.

MS. NULAND: Cathy?

QUESTION: Can you go back to the assets and how we’re – they’re working towards unfreezing them? If you have – at least Toria said at the podium, they need to get feet under them. What are – how long are we talking before this process goes forward?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: You’re talking about in addition to the 1.5 from us and the UK?

QUESTION: Right. Exactly. The rest of the assets that are still in the U.S.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, as mentioned, because of the great financial needs, we have been working urgently to try to unfreeze some of this money. And I mentioned the Sanctions Committee already this week unfreezing more than 3 billion in the next phase, and that is to do all we can to get that money flowing. That will help in an immediate sense. There are other requests before the Sanctions Committee by other countries that include Italy --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: Germany, Austria.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Right. And possibly the Netherlands. But in case, several other requests before the Sanctions Committee to start unfreezing. And we led the way there, putting forward a sort of model that the Sanctions Committee could consider and approve. The British used the same model, and we’re encouraged to see that other members of the Sanctions Committee are supporting that approach.

At the same time, over the longer term, there’s the discussion in New York of how to unfreeze assets more generally. And as you’ve heard, there are tens of billions of frozen – of dollars in frozen Libyan assets that could be, if the UN Security Council so decides, unfrozen more generally. But because of the urgency, we did this approach to the Sanctions Committee to start getting this money flowing. And I would just reinforce what was said earlier. In no way is this a donors conference or people looking to countries to come up with new money. The objective is to try to unfreeze the assets that the regime has, and put them to good use.

MS. NULAND: Good. Thank you very much, everybody.



PRN: 2011/1398



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