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MODERATOR:  Greetings to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Dubai Regional Media Hub.  I would like to welcome our participants joining us from Africa, the Middle East, and around the world for this on-the-record briefing with U.S. Special Envoy for Libya Ambassador Richard Norland.  During this call, Ambassador Norland will discuss the U.S. response to the recent devastating floods in Libya and ongoing efforts supporting the UN‑facilitated political process in Libya.  After opening remarks, Ambassador Norland will take questions from participating journalists.

We are pleased to offer simultaneous interpretation for this briefing in Arabic.  We request that everyone keep this in mind and speak slowly.

And without further ado, I will now turn it over to Ambassador Norland.  Ambassador, the floor is yours.

AMBASSADOR NORLAND:  Well, thank you, Hala, and hello, everybody.  (In Arabic), as our friends in Libya like to say.  I’ll be brief with some opening remarks.  It’s been almost four weeks since devastating floods struck eastern Libya, and I’d like to begin by saying that our hearts go out to the families of those who lost their lives and to those struggling now to rebuild as they cope with unimaginable personal loss.

In response to what happened, the United States has committed $12 million in humanitarian aid and a program of diplomacy, development, and defense engagements which are ongoing.  We are the largest donor to the humanitarian response for people affected by the floods in Derna and eastern Libya.  Our embassy declared a disaster emergency on the day of the flood, and USAID’s Tunis-based director from the Disaster Assistance Response Team was activated on September 13th and continues to coordinate with humanitarian partners and Libyan officials across the country to deliver support.  Our USAID Libya representative John Cardenas spent more than a week on the ground in Tripoli for engagements with local authorities and humanitarian partners in support of the international flood relief effort.

Over the span of visits to Libya by myself and General Langley, the United States airlifted over 29 metric tons of critical, lifesaving humanitarian supplies to Benghazi to support the most urgent needs in flood-affected communities.  On the security and diplomatic front, as I just mentioned, the commander of AFRICOM, General Michael Langley, and I traveled to Tripoli and Benghazi September 20th to 21st for meetings with Libyan military and political leaders to reiterate the importance of east-west cooperation in Libya to the long-term recovery and stabilization of the country.  The general’s C-130 delivered relief commodities to Benghazi.

We also discussed the urgent need for further progress in the political process, aiming to reach the stage of elections and the formation of a unified government capable of effectively serving all the people across the entire country in the wake of this crisis.

So indeed, in addition to the immediate humanitarian relief needs of the people in flood-affected areas, a unified national mechanism is required to effectively and efficiently implement reconstruction efforts.  Earlier this week, the United States joined France, Germany, Italy, and the UK in endorsing the special representative of the secretary-general Abdoulaye Bathily’s call for a unified national mechanism coordinated with local, national, and international partners that can deliver transparent and accountable relief and respond to reconstruction needs.  Other European partners have echoed these calls.  Unifying relief efforts responds to the demands of the Libyan people and is crucial to facilitate additional support and technical assistance from both the United States and other international partners.

And finally, perhaps it’s not by coincidence, but the discussion around reconstruction has also generated renewed debate and focus on electoral laws and the formation of an agreed caretaker government that would lead the country to elections.  We hope to see more progress in the coming days and weeks on a pathway to elections and concerted efforts to reconstruct and assist the people of Derna and eastern Libya.

So thanks very much.  I’ll stop there and I look forward to your questions.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador.  We will now begin the question-and-answer portion of today’s call.  And with that, our first question is a pre-submitted one and goes to Khalid Tawalbeh from Qatar Tribune, and the question is:  “Can you provide details about the immediate measures taken by the United States to assist Libya in dealing with the floods and resulting humanitarian crisis?”

AMBASSADOR NORLAND:  Sure.  Well, as I mentioned, on the day of the disaster our embassy declared a disaster emergency, which immediately began to release U.S. funding to support the humanitarian response.  Within days the U.S. had gone from committing a million dollars to committing $12 million.  President Biden announced that.  You could say that the response can be divided into three parts.  So one is the immediate rescue and relief phase, and there our focus was on donations to organizations that were immediately involved in those efforts.

Then there’s a recovery phase, which we’re engaged in now in coordination with the United Nations, which I have to say has played a remarkably rapid and effective role in trying to coordinate relief and recovery efforts around Derna and in eastern Libya, and that, again, is done in many ways through partner organizations from the international system and international NGOs.  We have a focus now on trying to help people prepare for winter and to deal with issues like food, medicine.  There are thousands of orphans now whose needs need to be met with psychological assistance.

And then the third phase gets into the area of reconstruction, and there the U.S. focuses on trying to help the Libyans pull together a unified reconstruction effort to maximize its effectiveness.  The Libyan people have made clear that they want to be reassured that resources that are supposed to be devoted to the reconstruction effort in fact are going to go there.  And having two separate entities, two separate governments trying to implement this is not as effective as having a unified effort.  With a unified effort, it’s also easier for the international community to provide the kind of technical support, accountability, transparency that will make for a more effective effort.  And if you have a unified Libyan effort, the international community can plug in more effectively.

So, again, in addition to the money that we’ve contributed and the 29 metric tons of supplies, the United States is very focused on doing what we can in cooperation with local, national, and international partners to support the relief, the recovery, and reconstruction efforts in Libya.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador.  We’ll now go to a question from the live queue, and the question goes to Suzy Elgeneidy from Al-Ahram. Suzy, you’re free to talk.  Go ahead and please unmute yourself.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Hi.  How are you?  Thank you for this.  Actually, it’s very important to know what’s happening from the side of the United States helping Libyans.  But my question is in your opinion, Mr. Ambassador, what are the chances of holding an election in Libya before the end of this year?  And are there any U.S. objections against any of the expected runners like Saif al-Islam Qadhafi or Khalifa Haftar?  Thank you very much.

AMBASSADOR NORLAND:  Right.  Well, it’s kind of my observation that the need for unity on flood reconstruction is matched now by the need for political unity.  And it may not be a coincidence that we’re seeing a flurry of activity break out in the – in some of the key Libyan institutions here, like the House of Representatives and the High State Council focused immediately on the adoption of electoral laws that would set the stage for presidential and parliamentary elections.

There is still some debate about exactly where those laws stand right now, but from our perspective, now is absolutely the time for key Libyan leaders to agree to meet and discuss how to move forward with these electoral laws and how to set up a technocratic caretaker government that would actually lead the country to elections.  It’s critical that all of the key partners be involved here, that it’s not a matter of forcing one party’s way in or forcing somebody out.  That was tried a year ago, it resulted in some bloodshed, and nobody wants to be responsible for that.

I think the really important thing here is that the UN is ready to play a very positive role.  SRSG Bathily has offered compromise ideas, which he outlined to the UN Security Council not long ago.  He has reiterated more recently his offer to provide a negotiating format and platform for the key parties to come together or send their representatives and begin a process of moving towards elections.

I don’t think anybody believes this will happen overnight.  People are looking for a credible roadmap to elections where the goal is clear, there are milestones along the way.  And with the necessary buy-in from the key leaders, it’s – it becomes credible that they – they’ve agreed that they’re going to play by the rules.

The key players are pretty clear.  It’s the high – the House of Representatives, the High State Council, the Presidential Council, the Government of National Unity, and the LNA.  And we would reiterate Mr. Bathily’s call that now is the time for them to send representatives to take part in these discussions.  This really offers the best hope for Libyans not only to move forward on the reconstruction process but also towards the political unity and the legitimization of their institutions which is so badly needed.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador.  Now for the next question, we’ll go to Alaa Elamari from Libya Al Ahrar TV.  And the question is:  “Can the United Nations’ and the United States’ call for a unified mechanism to support flood-affected cities succeed amidst the political division in Libya?”

AMBASSADOR NORLAND:  Well, I think it can succeed.  We’ve already been struck by the outpouring of engagement from across the country in support of the population affected by the floods in Derna and eastern Libya.  People rallied from not just the west, from Tripoli, but even from the south, from the most marginalized part of the country, to provide supplies and even soldiers to come and help to try to dig through the rubble.  So we think that there’s a will to participate together in this.  And I think leaders at the top recognize this.

I think they also recognize that for the international community – well, they recognize that the Libyan people are looking for reassurance that resources devoted to flood relief are actually going to go there.  And the best way to do that is to have the involvement of some technocratic international organizations like the World Bank, the UN Development Program – which have indicated they’re ready to play a role in this process – to bring them into the process.

And to do that it’s just much better and easier to do it if there’s a unified structure.  In the absence of such a structure, certainly the United States – and I think most of the organizations I mentioned – will continue to deal with Libyans across the board in any way that will help to advance the relief and reconstruction effort.  But imagine how much more effective it can be if it’s a unified structure.  And this shouldn’t be now a matter of any particular party trying to gain credit for flood relief.  The issue now is how to deliver credible, transparent, accountable relief to the people of Libya who need it so badly.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador.  And the next question from the live queue goes to Hasan Elbakoush from Almasar TV.  Hasan, please feel free to ask your question.  You can unmute yourself.

QUESTION:  (In Arabic.)

MODERATOR:  Hasan, let me – (in Arabic).  I will ask your question in English for the ambassador.

QUESTION:  (In Arabic.)

MODERATOR:  If it’s in Arabic, I will – I have your question that you submitted to the live queue.  I will ask it.

QUESTION:  I don’t understand.  (In Arabic.)

MODERATOR:  (In Arabic.)  Okay.  So his question is:  “Does the United States agree with the proposal to form a new government to conduct the elections?”

AMBASSADOR NORLAND:  As I said earlier, I think we’re entering a period of real – once again, a period of real political ferment.  And the events in Derna and eastern Libya have added now new urgency to the need to unify the country’s institutions.  And I think that the process of – that that process involves a couple of stages.  One is to agree on the electoral laws, and we seem to be very close there.  There’s been progress just in the last couple of days.  The other part is agreeing on a caretaker government that everybody can agree will have a neutral role in taking the country to elections and giving every candidate equal opportunity.

These are issues that can only be decided by the key parties themselves, and they need to do that at the negotiating table that SRSG Bathily has offered.  If there’s an attempt to try to force one party out or force one party in, it just risks bloodshed, as we saw a year ago.  And so I believe that the stage is actually set for development of an agreed credible roadmap to elections that could take place sooner than people think.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador.  The next question goes to the live queue to Nadia Bilbassy from Al Arabiya.  Nadia, please feel free to unmute.  Go ahead, Nadia.

QUESTION:  Can you hear me?

MODERATOR:  Now we can hear you.  Go ahead with your question.

QUESTION:  Great.  Thank you.  Good morning, Ambassador.  I just want to follow up with what you said about meeting with General Haftar along with General Langley.  After that meeting, General Haftar went to Moscow and he met with President Putin.  How do you read his meeting there, and can you give us some kind of assessment of the Wagner Group influence in Libya?  Has it been waned or stronger or the same after the death of Prigozhin?  Thank you so much.

AMBASSADOR NORLAND:  Well, in fact, General Langley’s visit to Tripoli and to Benghazi was scheduled before the flood.  But of course, the issue of flood relief and recovery was uppermost in our minds when we had our meetings there to begin with.  But in – the original purpose of the trip was in fact to focus on the security and well-being of the Libyan people, particularly in the context of growing turmoil on Libya’s southern borders.  If you look at the borders with Sudan, Chad, and Niger, these are all very precarious and fragile situations.  And regrettably, Wagner has contributed to destabilizing activities, not only in Libya but in each of those border regions.

And so when Libyan leaders engage with Russian counterparts, our suggestion is that they press the Russians on why Wagner should be the tool of choice to engage in in Libya.  And our focus – and this is something that General Langley spoke about with General Haddad in Tripoli and with General Haftar in Benghazi – it’s how to bring – to start a process of reunifying the Libyan military, beginning with a joint force that could patrol the south.  And this is something that was first brought up by the Joint Military Commission when they announced their ceasefire, the so-called 5+5 back in October of 2020.  And that institution, the 5+5, continues to function.

And there’s been a lot of discussion in the Berlin Process Security Working Group and other forums of how to unify the Libyan military.  It’s obviously not something that’s going to happen overnight, but we continue to push that, and that’s something that General Langley spoke about, and we think this joint unit to patrol the south would be a good place to begin.  Once you have that kind of unified security institution, you have a unified government with elections, then Libya is in a position to choose from a range of security cooperation partners, and that’s going to be Libya’s sovereign choice.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador.  The next question will go to Kamel Mansari from Algeria, Jeune Independent.  And the question is: “Has the dire situation in Derna caused a shift in U.S. priorities in Libya, particularly in terms of a political solution?”

AMBASSADOR NORLAND:  I think if anything it’s intensified our interest in reaching a solution that will not only unify the economic – unify and make more accountable the economic instruments in Libya that will be focused on reconstruction, but also the political – unifying the political institutions to help restore the country’s sovereignty and its unity.

So again, as I said earlier, Derna produced an outpouring of engagement from across the country, and I think people want to see that continue.  They aren’t looking – and I want to say that we’ve seen strong efforts on the leadership on both sides to try to address the recovery and reconstruction issues.  There’s no lack of interest.  The issue is can these – wouldn’t it be more efficient to unify those efforts?  And now would seem to be the time to do it, and of course it would have some benefit on the political front as well.

I would highlight one institution that was created a few months ago, the High Finance Committee, which brought together representatives from all of the parties in Libya, all of the key actors, to try to agree on how best to spend Libya’s mounting oil revenues, and at least to identify some priority areas for expenditure and then to make sure the money’s going there.  That committee has begun to function, and I think the reconstruction effort now involving Derna is a project that the High Finance Committee could make one of its top priorities.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador.  The next question is in the live queue from Jared Szuba from Al-Monitor.  Jared, please feel free to unmute yourself and ask your question.

QUESTION:  Hi, Mr. Ambassador.  Thank you so much for doing this.  Just want to follow up on Nadia Bilbassy’s question about General Langley’s with Khalifa Haftar.  Does the U.S. envision a role potentially for Mr. Haftar in a future unified Libyan security structure?  I know in the past the – U.S. officials have encouraged Mr. Haftar to distance himself and his forces from Russia and Russian-backed forces.  Given that he has since traveled to Moscow and signed a defense MOU, does the U.S. still envision a role for him in a future Libyan security structure, and will the U.S. enact sanctions for this?

AMBASSADOR NORLAND:  Yeah, I’m not aware of anything that was signed, but if you have some information on that, that would be interesting.  No, the role of not just General Haftar but of other figures in the Libyan political process going forward is something that Libyans are going to have to decide for themselves.  This is not something that the United States will decide.  We are engaging with all of the key leaders, including General Haftar, because they have an important role to play in moving things forward, and they can play an important role in blocking things if they decide to do that.  And our goal is to try to help SRSG Bathily bring the key actors to the table, beginning with their representatives, to focus on a credible roadmap to elections.  And to do that, I think we have to engage with all the key actors.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador.  The next question goes to Husam Alter from Aswat newspaper.  And the question is:  “What mechanisms will the United States implement to ensure transparent reconstruction in Derna and prevent the misuse of funds allocated for Derna?”

AMBASSADOR NORLAND:  Well, that’s a very important question.  One of the first steps in this process is a needs assessment that the World Bank will conduct over the next five or six weeks.  There are – then there’s the thought of getting the UNDP involved.  Of course, it has a very robust track record of accountability and knowing how to help countries manage projects like this and processes like this transparently and effectively.

There’s something called the Derna and Benghazi reconstruction fund, which right now is relatively small, but it’s something that could be built on to help with this reconstruction effort.  And again, with international involvement it would be pretty straightforward to make sure that this is all managed in a transparent and accountable way.  So I mean, the reality in Libya is, of course, people – some people are skeptical about how – where money’s going, and our goal is to try to help reassure the Libyan public that reconstruction funds are going where they’re intended.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador.  And now for the next question from the live queue to Jack Jeffery from the Associated Press.  Jack, please feel free to unmute yourself and ask a question.

QUESTION:  Hi.  Thank you very much for doing this.  I wanted to know if in any of the recent meetings with Khalifa Haftar – if any representative from the U.S. addressed the issues regarding the clampdown and restrictions on journalists during the – in the post – immediate post-flood period, and also the alleged crackdown on dissent and protests that also followed them.

AMBASSADOR NORLAND:  Yeah.  Well, I think, the issue of civil society and free speech is something that we’ve raised with all parties in Libya consistently for quite some time.  We’re conscious that in the situation in Derna there have been situations where some civil – some relief groups, some journalists have encountered restrictions.  Those are due to security concerns or not wanting bad press – honestly, it’s hard for us to say.

Our message has been that the more press coverage there is of the crisis out there, the better the international community will be informed about what’s needed, the more resources are likely to be steered towards the afflicted area.  So this is something that certainly is on the agenda, not just for the United States but the international community, the UN.  It’s about trying to – it’s all part of the basic theme of how to work with Libyans to produce the most effective response to the flood crisis.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador.  And we have time for actually not even one more question, unfortunately.  So we’re going to have to wrap it up at this point.  Thank you very much, Ambassador.  If you have any closing remarks, I’ll just turn the floor back over to you.

AMBASSADOR NORLAND:  Well, thanks very much.  Thanks for the high level of interest in this and the excellent reporting that we’ve seen globally on this crisis.  I would just say in closing that Libyans have been waiting for a long time to try to see the kind of political progress that they’re looking for.  There’s one doctor I spoke with once who said:  After 42 years of darkness, Libyans deserve to see the sun.  And those 42 years were followed by 10 or 12 years of turmoil.

There’s a real opportunity to try to move forward on a viable political process.  The crisis in Derna has kind of brought renewed attention to this, but it hasn’t changed the fundamental picture that it’s time for Libyan leaders now to bring their institutions together, to legitimize them.  It’s not going to happen overnight, but the UN has offered a viable platform for representatives from the key parties to begin the discussions to get there.  And we strongly urge these leaders to seize the opportunity.

Thanks very much.

MODERATOR:  That concludes today’s call.  I would like to thank Ambassador Norland for joining us.  We appreciate how busy you are, Ambassador, so thank you for taking the time to speak to journalists.  And thank you to all of our colleagues from the media for participating.  If you have any questions about today’s call, you can contact the Dubai Regional Media Hub at  Thank you all very much, and we hope you have a wonderful rest of your day.

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U.S. Department of State

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