Background Briefing En Route Istanbul, Turkey

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Officials
En Route, Turkey
July 14, 2011

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We’re en route to Istanbul for the fourth meeting of the Libya Contact Group tomorrow. And then on Saturday, as you know, we will have a bilateral visit with Turkish officials. We have Senior State Department Official to talk about the Contact Group and the bilateral visit with the Turks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Great. Thanks, [Senior State Department Official One].

So as [Senior State Department Official One] said, this is the fourth official meeting of the Contact Group. All of you have been along for most of these. It’s actually, by my count, the ninth big international meeting on Libya if you count Paris G-8 and the other Paris meeting that President Sarkozy did and the London meeting and the NATO ministerial in Berlin, the point being that I think that’s a reflection of the international community’s determination to come together and continue to focus on how to build – continue to build a broader and deeper coalition for achieving our aims in Libya.

At this Contact Group meeting, we expect some 35 countries to be represented. There’s some – still some details to nail that down. Twenty-one full participants in the Contact Group plus a wide range of international organizations, including the Arab League, the African Union, NATO, the European Union, the OIC, the TNC – the Transitional National Council and the GCC. So again, a very broad representation.

As we’ve discussed in previous Contact Group meetings, we seek to use these to move forward on two tracks – pressure, continued pressure on the regime, and continued support for the opposition now well-represented by the TNC, and that’s what we hope to do at this Contact Group meeting as well. I expect that participants will reiterate the determination and the view that Qadhafi has lost legitimacy and should go. I expect participants to reiterate their strong support for the UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 and to fully implement them.

On the support track, I think you can really think about this meeting as how we are going to collectively help prepare the TNC to govern. It’s just a fact that countries are now starting to look past Qadhafi. He is going to go, and the meeting can be a useful place to take stock and prepare for that transition. As you know, the United States has already called the TNC as the legitimate interlocutor for the Turkish people.

QUESTION: The Libyan.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Sorry. (Laughter.) For the Libyan people – it’s the fourth Contact Group meeting, right? And a number of other participants in the Contact Group that made similar statements about the legitimacy of the TNC. And we will look for more and more to express themselves in that way.

The TNC representative, Mr. Jibril, will be present, as he has been present at past Contact Group meetings. And he will brief on the TNC’s plans for a post-Qadhafi Libya. And we’ll be looking to hear about the TNC’s roadmap, which we hope and expect will be for a democratic Libya, an inclusive process that will include all parts of Libyan society – geographically east and west, different tribes, different political groups. We think the TNC understands that if they are going to be the legitimate interlocutor representative of the Libyan people, that it needs to be an inclusive process. We’ll look to participants to support – continue to support the lead UN role in this transition process. UN Special Envoy Khatib, the former Jordanian foreign minister, will be president – present, and he’ll talk about his ideas and principles for a democratic transition in Libya.

We will also look to participants to report on assistance. This is, again, in the category of how we support the TNC moving forward. As you know, one of the key questions has been providing financial support to keep the TNC operating. We have continued to make progress even if incremental on that regard. This time, the temporary financial mechanism that was first referred to at the very first Contact Group meeting is now up and running as a legal entity. And prior to it being up and functioning, there have been significant pledges to it. Remember the Kuwaitis pledged $180 million. The Qataris pledged a hundred million. Bahrain has pledged 5 million. Now we can report that money has actually been provided to the TFM, a total of a hundred million dollars from Qatar and Kuwait. So the TFM will be able to help and will look to other countries to report on what else they are doing to provide money either bilaterally or through the TFM.

Turkey has also, in recent weeks, announced a commitment of $200 million for the TNC, which will be helpful, and we will look to other countries to announce what they’ve been able to do not just in terms of direct pledges, but in terms of unfreezing assets, which is something that most members of the Contact Group have been focused on doing.

The LIEM, the Libyan Information Exchange Mechanism, is also up and running in Benghazi. Italy is playing the major role in that, and you’ll remember that that’s the effort to coordinate assistance. Some countries, including the United States, have been able to provide nonlethal assistance, and this is a mechanism to help make sure we’re matching what the TNC needs with what we are able to provide. So I think those are the things we’re looking for on the support track, and as I say, what it’s really about is preparing the TNC to govern and looking past Qadhafi for what we believe will be the next regime in Libya.

We’re also keeping up the pressure, and I think you’ve seen signs of that. You’ve seen the opposition making progress on the ground, especially most recently in the western mountains of Libya. NATO operations continue at a very high pace. There have been – since Operation Unified Protector began, there’s been more than 15,000 sorties, more than 5,000 strike sorties, and allies are determined. You recall that NATO recently extended its mission for another 30 days, and allies are determined to continue the military operations until the conditions that were spelled out in the Berlin ministerial have been met.

So overall, I would just say that we continue to believe that time is on our side. We’re making progress on both of these tracks and we’ll be looking to participants in the Contact Group tomorrow to continue to support that process.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Why don’t we go on and do a quick brief on Turkey and then come back to questions?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Okay. Just a few words on Turkey, because the Secretary, following the Contact Group, will do a whole bilateral day, a full day with her Turkish counterparts on the bilateral agenda with Turkey, which is considerable.

Turkey is really a partner with which we engage on the full range of global considerations. Turkey is a key player, obviously, in the Middle East, a member of NATO in the region with Greece and Cyprus and the Caucasus and Afghanistan, on the energy issue, on the counterterrorism issue, and this will be an opportunity for the Secretary to engage on that full global agenda.

I want to say that this is a relationship that is already very deep and intensive. That is to say that Secretary Clinton speaks to her counterpart Foreign Minister Davutoglu regularly. The President engages very regularly as well with Prime Minister Erdogan and President Gul. I think you’ll see on this visit, if a year ago there were some – where we also had a very intensive relationship with Turkey, there were some critical issues and issues on which we disagreed publicly, like Iran following the Turkish vote in the Security Council, I think we have – you’ll find that the relationship now is in a very strong place on many issues and that we’ve made progress. And I think it’s a result of the intensive engagement that we have. Rather than letting the differences that we had come between us, we have engaged all the more and the Secretary personally has engaged all the more. Where we had differences, we confronted them and have talked it through. And where we are cooperating, we’ve sought to intensify that cooperation.

So let me just very briefly tell you what meetings she’ll have, sort of walk you through the day and underscore what I think some of the things she’ll talk about will be. She’ll see President Gul the evening following the Contact Group, which is tomorrow. And then the next day, she’ll see Foreign Minister Davutoglu, she’ll see the Prime Minister Erdogan, she’ll meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch, and then she’ll see all of the opposition parties in the Turkish parliament.

And I won’t go into too much lengthy detail on all the issues because that would keep us here for a very long time. But just to note, they’ll obviously talk about Libya following the Contact Group, and I already noted what Turkey has done in recent weeks on that score.

Syria has been a very big issue for Turkey and obviously for the United States as well, and we’ve been in close touch with them. I would underscore Syria is a big issue for Turkey. They have a long border. There are more than 9,000 displaced Syrians who are in Turkey, and Turkey has been making a real commitment to take care of those people and joining us in pressing the Syrian regime to reform. I think, just by the way, on the both of those, U.S.-Turkish cooperation has been excellent.

Afghanistan as well. Turkey has some 1,800 troops in Afghanistan, has been a very close partner working with us on the political process as a NATO partner. And the Secretary and her counterparts will no doubt talk about NATO’s agenda as well.

They’ll talk about Iran. I mentioned already, and everybody knows that we had some differences on Iran last year over the Tehran declaration on Turkey’s vote, but it is clear to us that Turkey shares our goal of seeing – preventing nuclear proliferation in Iran, that it is implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1929. And they’ll talk together about how to continue with the P-5+1 process, which Turkey has been a part of by hosting one of the recent meetings.

We’ve worked well with the Turks on Iraq in terms of government formation. I mentioned counterterrorism regional issues in the Caucasus, Armenia, Cyprus, and the Balkans.

I could go on. I think you would get the point that this relationship is extraordinarily both intensive and broad, and we really see this as an opportunity to move the agenda on our common interest in all of these areas.

Let me also just flag the economic relationship with Turkey is a very important one that we have sought to invest in and expand. Under Secretary Hormats is along on the trip and will be meeting his counterparts. The energy relationship is also highly important to us, and Special Envoy Morningstar is also on the trip and will be engaging his counterparts.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Good. Let’s go to your questions. William.

QUESTION: Is there a difference between interlocutor, as you are calling the TNC, and recognizing them as the official government of Libya? And if so, are you guys moving closer towards that? And then secondly, is that, to your mind, a way to open up finances to the TNC, and like where in the spectrum are you?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: You’re right to describe it as a spectrum. And a number of different governments, as I said, (inaudible) what it is they’re saying when they say legitimate interlocutor, legitimate – legitimate authorities. All of those formulations stop short of what you might call formal recognition of a government.

But one of the things we’ll be consulting with counterparts here on is how to continue to strengthen and see them as the legitimate representatives or authorities in the country. So that is something that the Secretary will be speaking to her counterparts about. And to the degree that is a question of unfreezing assets, obviously that will be a part of the conversation as well.

QUESTION: So what’s the main watch words of that official recognition, or what’s the main kind of question to your mind – to the mind of U.S. officials for that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think certainly for the United States, obviously, and I can’t speak to other countries, but you would want to be sure that you know about the plans of the organization that is to be so-recognized, and you’d want to make sure that what they had in mind for the country was something that you were prepared to support. You would want to see that they had the attributes necessary. And I think recognizing a government is not something you would take lightly. You’d want to understand that the previous authorities were no longer capable of or deserving of being the government of that country. And that’s a process that from the start, I think, all of the countries in the Contact Group and elsewhere have been observing.

QUESTION: This – is this – is U.S. recognition is a scenario that you could envision happening before Qadhafi left power? Or is that something to be left until after?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, let’s see how discussions here come out with, but clearly, we’ve already said that Qadhafi has lost legitimacy and needs to go. And almost by definition when that happens, you’re going to be looking toward what the follow-on regime is. And we want to see both of those things happen sooner rather than later.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about (inaudible)? You talked about inclusiveness, that it needs to – is there some kind of marker that you want or specific thing that they need to do to – that you’re going to think that this demonstrates this is an inclusive authority that is – represents a wide swath?

And then on Syria, they’ve really stepped up their criticism of the regime. Is there anything specific that you’d like to – that you think would be helpful for Turkey to do in terms of trying to get him to step down, whether it’s sanctions or anything? But they certainly have a lot of – more leverage, I would think, than we do.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. On the first, Elise, I mean, I don’t think there’s a scientific bar for inclusiveness, but I also think that we do know when an authority, an organization, has included people from different brands. I mean, the first point, I think it’s a geographic one. It probably wouldn’t be considered exclusive if everyone came from one part of the country and no one from the other part of the country was involved.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. Right. No, I don’t – not right now, because I don’t think that’s the case. I think there are some who are not from the east. And clearly, there’s a significant opposition in the west that is part of the TNC. So I don’t think that’s the case, but I’m saying that for something to be seen as properly inclusive, there would – you’d want to see representation in it from all geographic parts of the country.

QUESTION: What about the south?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: South – all parts of the country.

QUESTION: But I don’t think anyone lives in the south.


QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Welcome to my world. Welcome to my world.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Right. We’ll get back to you on the south. But I think –

QUESTION: I guess my question is: Right now, are they saying that they’re representative and we’d like to see more representativeness?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think again, our briefer has already spoken to the fact that they are going to come and present a plan tomorrow, so it’s important to hear that plan.

You want to go to the Syria-Turkey issue?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: There are specific things that we’d like to see Turkey do – increase pressure. We’ve done – we’ve been clear about the process. You heard the President May 19th, that we need to see reforms or Asad needs to step aside. So prior to and since then, we have moved on visa bans and asset freezes, together with the European Union. Turkey has not gone as far as we have or other Europeans on that. We respect Turkey’s own decisions about how they can move forward on the pressure track. They have exerted pressure diplomatically and have been engaged very much with their neighbor in making clear to Asad that they want to see and expect to see reform. But as a country with a long border with Syria and, as I say, receiving thousands of displaced people from Syria, I don’t want to stand here and tell them what types of sanctions that they should be thinking about. I can say that they join us in believing that there needs to be pressure on the regime to reform.

QUESTION: Can I ask about two – one on the Contact Group and one on Turkey itself? On the Contact Group, is the Secretary coming – what is she bringing to the table tomorrow? Or is she really bringing – or is all – is anything that she might be bringing all contingent on the TNC making – saying the right things and doing the right things and really what you want to hear?

And then on Turkey, did you see this nine-page letter that the Hellenic Institute sent to the Secretary outlining all these demands, what she should tell the Turks, how bad they are and how mean they are and this kind of thing? Have you seen that letter, and does she plan to raise any of those issues that they’ve talked about, which were the standard Greek complaints about Turkey, Cyprus, the claims on the sea – on – and that kind of thing?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I haven’t seen the letter. I’d be happy to look at it.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.) (Laughter.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think you can be sure that she will raise regional issues with Turkey, and they’ll talk about Greece and they’ll talk about Cyrpus and they’ll talk about domestic developments in Turkey as they always do. So that will definitely be a part of the conversation.

As to the first, obviously – that the Secretary announce or talk about anything specific that she is bringing to the Contact Group. I did already talk about the way we’re thinking about this meeting and trying to see it as a pivot in this process for looking past Qadhafi, and I outlined the types of things we’ll be engaged with on how we can increase support for the TNC and increase pressure on Qadhafi.

QUESTION: Right. But I guess what I’m saying is that – I mean, will she have anything to offer the TNC even if they are not able to present an acceptable plan of becoming the next government or the next regime?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, we are coming here to continue to express support for the TNC. It’s not as – it’s not about what they will say tomorrow. We do want to hear their report and we want to listen very carefully to their plans for post-Qadhafi Libya, which we strongly support.

QUESTION: Do you expect those – maybe [Senior State Department Official One] did this because you were in Abu Dhabi. Do you expect them to be more refined now than they were in Abu Dhabi, the TNC’s plans?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Absolutely. Between these meetings, the Secretary works with individual Contact member partners, and our team works with the TNC to increase and continue the thinking about how you get from where they are now to an entity that is prepared to govern when the time comes and prepared to get Libya to elections and the kind of support that they will need from the international community, particularly with the UN in the lead, the kind of supporting international umbrella they’d like to see. So as everybody talks about this individually, to come together in this meeting, hear how their plans have evolved, hear how the UN’s work with them has evolved, and then to hear how we can all contribute to that evolving roadmap, is the goal.

QUESTION: Can I ask – can we expect any discussion about station a defense radar in Turkey?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I noted that NATO will be a part of the conversation, and one of the issues that NATO has decided to do is move forward with missile defense based on President Obama’s plan, the European phased-adaptive approach. We have said from the start, as we elaborated that approach – and you know what it consists of and the four phases and the interceptors deployed in Poland and Romania – we have noted from the start that the system also will involve the radar that would ultimately or optimally be placed somewhere in Southeastern Europe. There haven’t been any decisions on where that radar will be, but we’ll certainly be discussing the entire program of missile defense with Turkey. And --

QUESTION: That was a question about the missile defense sites?


QUESTION: And you said that –

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I said they were going to talk about it.

QUESTION: But it’s – the letter that you got from whoever it was, Kyl or whoever, you don’t have anything to worry about, no deal is going to be signed?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I don’t expect there to be a deal signed on missile defense or anything else in Turkey. As I noted, we have from the start been exploring where this radar might be, and we’ll definitely exchange views with the Turks on that.

QUESTION: Can I – (inaudible).

QUESTION: Back on the TNC, the first one is the statements from the U.S. about these reports of contacts with Qadhafi’s group have been quite a bit cooler than some of the European sort of statements to that effect – the French. To what degree is – are we confident that these contacts are underway and that they’re real, and does the U.S. have a different perception of this than perhaps some of its NATO allies?

And secondly, France put out a report, circulated a report on their post-stabilization mission, which included some pretty interesting recommendations, including one that the Libyan military should be allowed to remain intact after Qadhafi’s exit. To what degree is that report going to be the subject of discussions, and does the U.S. sort of back this idea that the military has to be left intact and to keep the country stable going forward?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Let me say something about the second issue, because I’m glad you raised it because I failed to underscore the degree to which that is actually another important discussion to be had here in Istanbul, the question of because we’re so focused on post-Qadhafi transition – and I was talking a little bit about the political aspects of that, inclusive TNC, and also the need to focus on the security aspects of that.

And the report to which you refer will – has been circulated, people are well familiar with it, and will be an element in the discussion. It is by no means the plan or anything that would likely be adopted in exactly that form. But that is another major reason for this meeting. It is a very timely one because we do expect that sooner rather than later there’s going to be this transition, and we need to be ready for it. We don’t know when it will be, whether it will be tomorrow or later than that, but the ideas in that report – and there are other contributions on the table as well – is something that we really want ministers to have a chance to focus on here.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So again, just to be clear, we’ve all been talking individually, the TNC has been talking, about the need for political planning, economic planning, security planning. So this is a chance for all the countries involved to concert views and also to hear from the UN about the role that it can play in coordinating the support.

So on the --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: [Senior State Department Official One] is going to take the first part of Andy’s question. Then I can (inaudible).

SENIOR STATE DEAPRTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So, Andy, you know we’ve been saying that there are a lot of straws in the wind and there are a lot of Libyans contacting a lot of folks. I think we are not persuaded yet that any of this is decisive in terms of the red lines that we have laid out, namely that Qadhafi needs to cease the violence, he needs to get his forces back, and he needs to make clear that he is prepared to step down from all of the posts that he holds so that one could move on to the transition. So that’s what we’re looking for, is decisive action from him and from his people.

We’ll take one last one and then we’ve got to go.

QUESTION: Yeah. On Russia, Russia has refused to attend the Contact Group meeting in Turkey. Have you discussed this topic with Lavrov when he was there, and what are you thinking of that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yes. As you noted, Foreign Minister Lavrov was in Washington yesterday, actually for a couple of days of the Quartet meeting. He met at length with the Secretary and discussed our very full agenda with Russia, and also with the President. And Libya was certainly discussed. And as you know, Russia has engaged and committed itself to the same goal of us, which is to ensure this transition. Russia also believes that Qadhafi has lost legitimacy and needs to go.

Russia is not attending this meeting. We would welcome their attendance, as we welcome their agreement to engage and see what they can do to promote this transition in Libya. They named a special envoy, Mikhail Margelov. He’s been to Tripoli a couple of times and we’ve been in very close touch. President Obama has spoken several times with President Medvedev about it, including just last week.

So we’re actually working well with the Russians on it. The Secretary had a long discussion on Libya with Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday, and we think we are very much committed to the same goals. Russia would be welcome at the Contact Group, should they choose to come. In this particular case, they’re not going to be here, but maybe they’ll come to one in the future.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you very much, everybody.

PRN: 2011/T51-01