Briefing on Plane Before Departure for Geneva, Switzerland
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: Let me start by saying as strongly as I can that the United States and the American people support the aspirations and rights of the Libyan people. They are clearly sending as strong a message as they are capable of doing that it is time for Qadhafi to go. We think he must go as soon as possible without further bloodshed and violence.
We are also very conscious of the actions that have been taken against the Libyan people by the Qadhafi regime. And the Security Council resolution passed unanimously yesterday makes clear there will be accountability for crimes against humanity and war crimes and other atrocities that are being perpetrated against the Libyan people, including a referral to the International Criminal Court. And I want to underscore this unanimous message from the Security Council to those who are around Qadhafi that you will be held accountable for the actions that are being taken and have been taken against your own people.
The Security Council resolution yesterday was part of a concerted effort that the United States has been lining up and implementing over the last days, both for unilateral and multilateral action. And we will continue to pursue steps aggressively that we believe will make a difference. Obviously, the Security Council resolution, which was passed in record time and included countries that are often reluctant to empower the international community to take such actions, sends a strong, unmistakable signal. The specifics that go to targeted sanctions and arms embargo and other measures are exactly what we have been looking toward and wanting to achieve in this period.
It also opens the door for humanitarian relief, which is going to be essential – the numbers of people fleeing across the borders, particularly into Tunisia and Egypt, where those two countries are facing huge humanitarian demands, plus internally displaced people.
There’s also a strong message in the Security Council resolution to countries in the region: You must stop mercenaries, you must stop those who may be going to Libya either at the behest or opportunistically to engage in violence or other criminal acts. And we will be working closely with those neighboring countries to ensure that they do so.
This change that is sweeping across the region is coming from inside societies. It is not coming from the outside. But each country is different, and each country must deal with the demands of their own people and pursue paths that will lead toward change.
The United States supports those who are pursuing the path of reform. In particular, His Majesty King Hamad of Bahrain and His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan are engaged in meaningful outreach and efforts to try to bring about the change that will be in line with the needs of the people of their countries. So this is a period of great historical challenge and opportunity, and the United States will be pursuing actions and policies that we believe are in the best interests of the United States and also in the best interests of the region and the world.
I’ll be glad to take a few questions.
QUESTION: What do you hope to achieve at the Human Rights Council in Geneva? What is the purpose?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there are a number of reasons why this is turning into a significant meeting. I will be meeting with many of my counterparts from Europe and beyond to discuss ways that we can better coordinate and organize in meeting the expectations laid down by the Security Council, and thinking through how we can respond to the needs of the Libyan people not only in a humanitarian way but in a political and civil response as they try to sort through how they’re going to organize themselves post-Qadhafi.
I will also be speaking at the Human Rights Council. We made a determination in this Administration to join the Human Rights Council. I think it’s proven to be a good decision because we’ve been able to influence a number of actions that we otherwise would have been on the outside looking in. There are a number of issues on that agenda that we will be working on. I will also go to the Conference on Disarmament because we continue to press for further action in accordance with President Obama’s Prague agenda. So it will be a very busy, exhausting day, but a very fruitful one for me to be there.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, there’s reports that there’s – the former justice minister has set up his interim government in Benghazi. Has the U.S. had any contact with them? Do you think that’s a viable sort of bridging mechanism?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are just at the beginning of what will follow Qadhafi. First we have to see the end of his regime with no further violence and bloodshed, which is a big challenge in front of all of us. But we’ve been reaching out to many different Libyans who are attempting to organize in the east and as the revolution moves westward there as well. I think it’s way too soon to tell how this is going to play out, but we’re going to be ready and prepared to offer any kind of assistance that anyone wishes to have from the United States.
QUESTION: Now that President Obama has said that he should leave, have there been talks with other countries about where he would go? Who would take him?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we want him to leave and we want him to end his regime and call off the mercenaries and those troops that remain loyal to him. How he manages that is obviously up to him and to his family. But we have consistently in many conversations over the last week sent messages, and along with partners in the region and beyond have made it clear we expect him to leave. But we’re not involved in any kind of negotiation with him over that.
QUESTION: Thank you.