The Political Situation in Libya

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Special Briefing Gene Cretz Ambassador to Libya Washington, DC


AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Thank you. Good afternoon. I’m here today to update you on our efforts in Libya, the mission of our special envoy to the TNC, and the progress the international coalition has made in stopping the brutality and bloodshed of the Qadhafi regime. Since the last time I spoke with you, it has become clear that Qadhafi and his henchmen have no intention of ceasing the violence and bloodshed. Despite the claims of recent days, regime forces have continued to commit atrocities in Misrata and the western mountains.

As the Secretary said, the United States condemns the Qadhafi regime’s continued brutal attacks on the Libyan people in violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for a stop to all attacks on civilians and an immediate ceasefire. The indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas in Misrata has not stopped. In the western mountains, pro-regime troops have laid siege to civilian populations, apparently attempting to starve them into submission.

With that backdrop, I’d like to update you on two fronts. In the past several weeks, there have been several international meetings, including the contact group in Doha, the NATO ministerial in Berlin, and the Cairo meeting of the AU, Arab League, and the UN. These meetings have reaffirmed the resolve of nations to work together to address the situation in Libya. Separately, Chris Stevens, our envoy to the TNC, has had open and frank discussions with many members of that body and the opposition at large.

On the international front, the first meeting of the Contact Group on Libya was held in Doha on April 13th. The Contact Group came away from the meeting unified in its commitment to a set of core principles for the path forward in Libya. First and foremost, Qadhafi and his regime have lost all legitimacy and must relinquish power, leaving the Libyan people free to determine their own future. Qadhafi must also put a stop to his attacks on civilians and pull back from the areas that have forced – that they have forcibly entered.

The participants also agreed that the regime must comply with its obligations under international law, including the reestablishment of water, electricity, and gas supplies to all areas and unrestricted humanitarian access to all of Libya. Finally, the participants reiterated that a political solution would be the only way to bring lasting peace to Libya, and reaffirmed their commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and national unity of Libya.

The day after the Contact Group meeting in Doha, the Secretary traveled to the NATO ministerial meeting in Berlin. Assembled there were the foreign ministers of NATO allies and the countries which are participating in Operation Unified Protector. That meeting reinforced the NATO-led coalition’s endorsement of the principles set forth in Doha and the coalition’s commitment to seeing those principles realized. The Berlin meeting also resulted an agreement on a clear set of objectives for Operation Unified Protector, specifically an end to attacks against civilians, withdrawal of regime forces to their bases, and unimpeded humanitarian access to all of Libya.

Our Special Envoy to the TNC Chris Stevens, along with a small team of USAID specialists, arrived in Benghazi on April 5th. Since that time, Chris has met with a wide range of Libyans, most notably the political and military leadership of the opposition. Among those with whom he has had discussions are TNC Chair Mustafa Abdul Jalil and TNC Military Chief of Staff Abdul Fattah Younis al Abidi. Chris has assessed that the TNC, as we had previously reported, is a political body which is worthy of our support.

Members of the envoy’s mission are also meeting with representatives of local organizations and civil society as part of our effort to get to know the people in the opposition and understand the situation on the ground. The USAID team is working with international and local agencies to get a better picture of humanitarian needs and to coordinate responses. The overall security situation in certain areas of Libya affects the ability of the Stevens mission to reach areas and actors beyond Benghazi.

As you all have reported, the President, just last night, approved up to $25 million worth of – a drawdown of up to $25 million worth of nonlethal commodities and services to be provided to key partners in Libya, including the TNC. Items that could be useful to further international efforts to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas currently under threat by forces loyal to the Qadhafi regime include medical equipment, protective vests, and non-secure radios, and uniforms. With that, I’ll be happy to answer any questions that you have.