Background Briefing by a Senior State Department Official
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Hi.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: When I – I’ve – of course I’ve been in all of these Contact Group meetings and the meetings in London and Paris that preceded the establishment of the Contact Group. So when I looked at today’s meeting and I say, okay, what did we accomplish today, I see several categories: financial, diplomatic, political.
On the financial side, thanks to a lot of hard work last night and this morning as well as preparatory work before, the temporary financial mechanism, the TFM, is now up and running and operational. In fact, it’s so operational that we’ve got commitments of something about $300 million that came out of today’s meeting into the TFM.
QUESTION: Sorry. How many?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It’s about – it’s approaching $300 million specifically.
QUESTION: Italy and France?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: From – no. From Qatar and Kuwait.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Italy and France have also talked about financial contributions, an MOU that Italy has with the TNC and France coming up with ways to use frozen assets for the benefit of the Libyan people, but these are different mechanisms. But all together you start to see a growing amount of financial support that’s going to the TNC and particularly you’ve got a jumpstart into this – into the temporary financial mechanism.
For our own part, of course, you’ve seen the news that legislation is now being prepared in response to the President’s request. You’ve got bipartisan legislation that will allow us to also use frozen assets for the benefit of the Libyan people in accordance with the spirit of the Security Council resolutions.
So I also would encourage you to look at the language in the communiqué on the financial issues, because you’ll see a lot of language talking about the – any successor government’s obligations in terms of debt that the TNC undertakes – these were done very much on purpose in order to provide various donors a number of mechanisms and tools that they could use in accordance with their own local laws, with their own local authorities. So you’ll – so I think you’ll see a political commitment in that language on the financial side by all the Contact Group members to allow a number of mechanisms, whatever is most appropriate for donor countries. So I would – that’s sort of the financial side.
On the diplomatic side, you’ve seen both here in the Contact Group as well as internationally a growing involvement, engagement with the Transitional National Council. You just saw – you probably saw the news that Senegal’s president has now said that Qadhafi must step down. The Arab League in this meeting talked about the fact that Qadhafi has lost legitimacy. Of course, you had the Mauritanian president just a couple days ago. So I think you see a growing diplomatic isolation of Qadhafi, a growing diplomatic consensus on behalf of transition.
And that gets to the third area where I see progress, and which was the discussion behind closed doors and around the lunch as well as even in the communiqué about the transition. The Transitional National Council, of course, itself says it wants to go out of business, it wants to have Qadhafi gone and to have national inclusive government through constituent assemblies and its own roadmap.
And there’s a lot of discussion now by the Contact Group about how to support that transition process, even before Qadhafi is – has stepped down. It’s essentially – we’re not waiting. We’re not waiting for that minute when Qadhafi finally bows to the will of the Libyan people and steps down. We’re working to support the Libyan people now in a transition plan. You’ll see more language up front and in the communiqué about support of transition. And behind closed doors, there was far more discussion about the – about transition than there has been in the previous meetings.
So I – so those are sort of my opening comments. And I would notice on the diplomatic side as well, we – the Secretary used the word “the” rather than “a” in describing the TNC as the legitimate interlocutor for the Libyan people through this interim period. And of course this is a – this is our own signal of moving toward that transition, of working with the TNC on its own roadmap through this interim period.
MODERATOR: Before we go to questions let’s go on to the little bit on Syria, Yemen, (inaudible) --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Oh. And then, of course, the Secretary also, as in all of these international conferences, saw a number of her counterparts. She’s meeting with the Belgian now, but in terms of this region, she met with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayid, who was accompanied by the UAE Foreign Minister Abdallah bin Zayid. She also met with the Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammad al-Sabah. She saw Mahmoud Jibril, who is the head of the executive body of the Transitional National Council, who was accompanied by the minister of finance of the Transitional National Council, Ali Tarhouni, as well as other Libyan officials. She also saw the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Conference. And I’m – it seems like I’m –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Oh, she’ll see the – she has not seen the Turks yet. She’ll see the Turks (inaudible), but I’m – who was the first one –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: -- that we saw in the --
MODERATOR: UAE, Kuwait, Libyans, and OIC.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That’s right. That’s what I said. And there were – I would say that there were two basic themes in these discussions. The Libyan’s, of course, was focused very much on the transition and the council’s own plans for moving forward to building an inclusive government for all of Libya as Qadhafi steps down from power. But with the other meetings, there was the regular bilateral business. We discussed Iran a lot with our friends in the Gulf. But there also was a general discussion on – that touched on the transitions across the region and how one supports the civil rights, the political reforms needed to address aspirations of people across the region. So in this aspect, of course, topics like Syria came up, Yemen came up, as well as other topics. And of course, the Secretary also compared notes based on her meetings this week with the Crown Prince of Bahrain who visited Washington this week to reaffirm our commitment to the partnership with Bahrain while also noting our encouragement of a reform and dialogue process in Bahrain.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) become available to (inaudible).
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The Kuwaitis said that their money will be available now (inaudible). They had already gotten everything through parliament, they were waiting for the TFM to be up and running; it’s now up and running. The Qataris have also said that their contribution, which is $100 million, would be ready to go. But I think the Kuwaiti money is basically almost like pressing a button at this point, is the way I understand – the way they’ve explained it to us, that they’ve been waiting for this. They’ve got – they’ve gone through all their internal processes and were waiting for this TFM.
QUESTION: So the Kuwaitis, it’s 200 million?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Kuwaitis is 50 million Kuwaiti Dinar, which is about 180 million.
QUESTION: Did the Libyans look happy with the outcome of this conference?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The Libyans --
QUESTION: Because they were warning it was going to be a failure.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. The Libyans expressed to us they were pleased that we were moving forward in recognizing the TNC as the legitimate interlocutor during this interim period and working with them on transition plans. They also very much took note and were pleased by this language on all the financial (inaudible), because they recognize it was the donors trying to come together, the Contact Group trying to come together, to come up with ways to provide a number of mechanisms for donor countries.
QUESTION: Is there more coming?
QUESTION: Is this what we talked about on the plane yesterday? Countries have different legal problems with this issue.
QUESTION: Is there any more coming? Because it seems like the – when Jibril was in town the other day he said that it was only – 180 million would only last him a couple weeks. I mean, 300 million gets you a couple more weeks on top of that. I mean, is there more coming down the pipe? Is this going to --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: But there’s also – again, look at the language, because the language talks about a variety of ways to use the assets that belong to the Libyan people for the – on behalf of Libyan people. It talks about how you would be able to provide loans. So I think that what you’re seeing is you’re seeing the beginning of a process, because there’s a number of routes countries can take now. There’s basically a – there’s a political consensus among the Contact Group that we have to stand together and support a number of different ways to support the council financially, and the Libyan people financially, of which the TFM is one good way that’s accountable, it’s transparent, but that’s not the only way.
QUESTION: This frees us to do the same thing, eventually, with the --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And that’s why the --
QUESTION: So --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That’s why the President asked the Congress for this legislation, so that we would have a way to use the – some of the assets frozen in the United States on behalf of the Libyan people.
QUESTION: But will the money that will be unfrozen with that legislation go to the financial mechanism, or is that not going to go to it?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I would expect that we’ll be looking at other means ourselves that are consistent with our own laws in this (inaudible) Security Council resolutions. So I --
QUESTION: So it wouldn’t be directly to the TNC through this mechanism?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m not going to preclude any option, but I – my guess is that it would be going through other means.
QUESTION: Can you say something quickly about Syria? I mean, what’s the tenor of the conversation? What’s being discussed? What are the Arabs saying?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Look, everybody is expressing a lot of concern about Syria, for obvious reasons. And there’s a sort of generalized revulsion about what’s happening in Syria. There’s a sense that we need to be speaking with a unified message to express this revulsion, but there’s also a fear that the message isn’t getting through. Ultimately, there’s going to have to be a process in Syria by which the Syrians own aspirations are being met, and it’s not going to be through the current means. But there was a lot of discussion on Syria today, a lot of unity on the revulsion, the need to get a message across, but, frankly, a lot of concern that it’s just not being heard.
MODERATOR: We have time for one more and then I’ve got to (inaudible).
QUESTION: A quick one: Some rebel aides have said that Saif has approached the council looking for a way out for Qadhafi, and it’s a matter of days. Can you – do you know anything about a sort of exile option or a deal being discussed?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, that’s encouraging to hear. I don’t know anything about it. But if it’s finally sinking in that he’s got to step down, that’s good news, but I’m not aware of any.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Just one thing on Yemen. Any update on Saleh’s status and what’s going to happen over the next few days and weeks? Are you getting more clarity about that?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There’s a lot of contradicting information about Saleh’s condition, Saleh’s intentions. As much as all of us abhor violence, it should not – you don’t want to use assassinations and bombs in order to enact a transition in Yemen. We still believe that it’s important to get that transition process underway.
QUESTION: Thank you.
PRN: 2011/T48- 03