Secretary's Remarks: Remarks With Prime Minister Elkeib After Their Meeting
WASHINGTON, March 8, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Remarks
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
March 8, 2012
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, everyone. I just have to express that it is not only an honor, but a personal pleasure to welcome the prime minister of a free Libya on his visit to Washington, where he's had excellent consultations in the White House meeting with, among others, the President, and an excellent presentation before the UN Security Council yesterday in New York. Just think, this time last year, the United States was working to build an international coalition of support for the Libyan people, and today we are proud to continue that support as the people of Libya build a new democracy that will bring about peace and prosperity and protect the rights and dignity of every citizen.
The prime minister and I had a very productive, comprehensive discussion about the many issues Libya is facing. We do not underestimate how challenging the road ahead will be. We are aware of that. We've been on the path to democracy for more than 235 years, and we know that there are potholes and pitfalls along the way. Qadhafi spent 42 years hollowing out Libya's institutions, ruling through intimidation and division, but after his defeat, over the last four months, the prime minister and this interim government have provided essential and effective leadership and they've begun the hard work of putting Libya back together. We've seen progress in each of the three key areas of democratic society – building an accountable, effective government; promoting a strong private sector; and developing a vibrant civil society. And we will stand with the people of Libya as it continues this important work.
On the governance front, the interim leadership has established an inclusive election law and set up a supreme elections commission with the goal of holding constitutional assembly elections this June. This is a critical first step that will pave the way for a new constitution grounded in democratic principles. We fully support the elections commission as it works to meet its deadlines and ultimately elect a fully democratic parliament that can begin delivering results for the Libyan people. We're also encouraged by the prime minister's and the government's commitment to promoting human rights and the rule of law, and we are offering help to the government as they continue investigating allegations of human rights violations. They realize and we applaud their commitment to ending this kind of violence in the new free Libya.
We also know there are problems with border security, with integrating militias, with working toward national reconciliation, and on all of these and more, we are working with our Libyan partners. At the same time, on the economic front, business is picking up. Libya has exceeded everyone's expectations in resuming oil production. The United States and the UN have removed almost all restrictions on doing business, and we are encouraging American companies to look for opportunities inside Libya. We also are supporting the booming new civil society that is developing in Libya. I was delighted when I visited Tripoli to go to the university, to talk with young people, to meet with others who are fighting for women's rights and human rights in their country.
Our Middle East Partnership Initiative and USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives are working with many civil society groups. And the UN support mission in Libya is playing a valuable role. We're exploring ways to promote partnerships and exchanges in the health field with a particular emphasis on continuing to assist the war wounded. We're looking at establishing a U.S.-Libya higher education task force with the goal of expanding academic and student exchanges. And I am pleased that we will begin providing visa services at Embassy Tripoli for Libyan Government officials. We want to get permanent facilities, but obviously in the short term, we want to set up shop and begin to reach out in the most important way – on a people-to-people basis to the Libyans.
So Mr. Prime Minister, I and our government look forward to working with you and the Libyan people as you continue to make progress on behalf of a new, free, democratic Libya.
PRIME MINISTER ELKEIB: Madam Secretary of State, thank you very much for your kind words and for hosting me today and my team. On behalf of the Libyan people, I extend our deepest appreciation to the American people and leadership and say, simply and deeply, thank you. I also thank Dr. – President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Ambassador Rice for having been a tremendous support and for their strong leadership in supporting the Libyan revolution, which has been so successful that it did indeed impress everybody. We Libyans are very proud of our young men and women who brought freedom to our country after 42 years of a brutal regime that nobody felt would disappear in eight months. So we do thank our friends and partners so much for having been there when we needed them.
We have come here today to find ways on how we can work and how we can better work together. One of the things that I did request help with from Madam Secretary was the remnant of the past regime. They have been a nuisance and have been – they have been causing problems and we need them back to give them proper justice. And we also need the funds they have stolen from the Libyan people to come back to Libya. So we look forward to help in that area from the U.S. and from everybody else who can help us here. It's very important to us.
During the revolution, the Libyan people demonstrated time and time again great courage and resilience. Our citizen army of teachers and mechanics, lawyers, students, professors, our sons and daughters suffered great losses along with the civilian population, but with great bravery and unfortunately too much in terms of losses. But however, in the end, we succeeded in making the dream of a free Libya a reality, and we'll keep it that way.
We also, in a direct fashion and I hope Madam Secretary would forgive me for having done that, requested help with our wounded young men with very difficult cases. And the response was very positive, and we cannot thank you enough for that. Libyans are putting the same energy and determination that fueled the revolution into establishing a new Libya that has a positive contribution, maybe in a small way, at least, to the environment around it and to the world around it. And we are determined to do that. Libya needed the facelift and the revolution has given it to her. We are looking for a new Libya founded on the principles of democratic governance and rule of law and dedicated to improving the quality of life for the Libyan citizens. And we call on our friends and partners who helped us to become free to also help us meet the aspirations of our people.
We had a very productive meeting today that focused on a number of areas of mutual interest and future opportunities for cooperation between our two countries. The Libyan Government is fully committed to holding free, fair, and transparent elections in June, and we look for continued support from the U.S. and our partners in that area. Now that the war of liberation of Libya is almost over – after we get those remnants of the past regime, it will be over – now that we are – the war is almost over, the U.S. private sector can help play an important role in rebuilding Libya and enabling us to meet our aspirations for peace, prosperity, and high quality of life. And we are determined to do that.
In the past year, the dynamics between the U.S. and Libya has been dramatically transformed for the better. We look forward to the continued strengthening of this relationship as Libya moves forward with its democratic transition and rebuilding its economy.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, sir.
MS. NULAND: We have time to take two questions today. We'll start with Reuters, Andy Quinn.
QUESTION: Good morning. My questions will focus on Libya, if I may. Mr. Prime Minister, first for you, at the United Nations yesterday, the Russian Ambassador to the Security Council accused Libya of running camps to arm and train Syrian rebels. I'm hoping you can respond directly to this accusation. And also to discussion of these calls for autonomy in Benghazi and concern that this is going to threaten the future of the Libyan revolution, can you address that, please?
And for Madam Secretary, I'm wondering if you can tell us if you received any new assurances on the Megrahi case in your discussions today.
And both of you, if you could discuss what lessons Syria's rebels should take from the Libyan experience. Thank you.
MS. NULAND: That was four questions.
SECRETARY CLINTON: It was four questions. (Laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER ELKEIB: Excuse me. On the Syrian issue, we, I believe, were the first country to recognize the Syrian Transitional Council, and we did it because we felt that the Syrian cause is a good cause. It's people who are voicing their voice, raising their voice, asking for freedom. As far as training camps, unless this is something that is done without government permission, which I doubt, I'm not aware of any.
Concerning the East, the issue of a group of not more than few thousand trying to create a state, I can tell you this is democracy in practice; that is simply that. I know the person who is appointed by this small group. I know him very well, he's actually a friend, and I have respect for him as a result of his past. I disagree with the approach not because it's an opinion that people are sharing with others but because it has to be toward a constitution that we are about to create, that this issue should be raised.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Andy, I, of course, raised the Megrahi Pan Am 103 issue as I do whenever I meet with Libyan officials. You know where I stand. I believe that Megrahi should still be behind bars. And we know that Libya faces a multitude of challenges, but at the same time they have assured us that they understand the sensitivities of this case, and they will give the matter the consideration it deserves. We will continue to fight for justice for all the victims of Qadhafi and his regime. And in this particular case, the U.S. Department of Justice has an open case, and it will remain open while we work together on it.
Finally, with respect to Syria, I think what we saw coming out of Libya with the unity and the vision that the Transitional National Council presented to the world with the close linkage between the civilian representatives and the fighters for freedom, they presented a unified presence that created an address as to where to go to help them, a lot of confidence in their capacities on the ground, their commitment to the kind of inclusive democracy that Libya is now building. And we are working closely with the Syrian opposition to try to assist them to be able to present that kind of unified front and resolve that I know they feel in their own – on their behalf is essential in this struggle against the brutal Assad regime.
MS. NULAND: Last question is (inaudible) Lachlan.
QUESTION: Good morning to both of you. Madam Secretary, if I may on Iran, the P-5+1 issued at the IAEA a statement calling for Iran to open up the facility at Parchin. Do you consider that a condition for the talks to go ahead? And how confident are you that Iran will come to these talks seriously discussing the nuclear concerns you have?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Lachlan, I think that what we have demonstrated consistently through the P-5+1 is that the international community is united. We are united in our concerns and condemnation of Iran's actions that violate their international obligations, and we are united in continuing to press the Iranian regime to come to the diplomatic forum that the P-5+1 offers. So as the president made clear in his remarks just a few days ago, we continue to believe we have space for diplomacy. It is obviously coupled with very strong pressure in the form of the toughest sanctions that the international community's ever imposed.
We want to begin discussions with Iran. They insist that their nuclear program is purely peaceful and if that's the case, then openness and transparency, not only with the P-5+1 but also with the IAEA and the Security Council and the international community, is essential. That's why we want to respond as we did, positively, to the letter that came from the Iranians. I would also draw your attention to the statement that China released today in Vienna on behalf of the P-5+1 with regard to our expectations that access to Parchin and other Iranian sites will be provided. So we are hoping that the Iranians will come to the table prepared to have the kind of serious and sincere discussion we have been looking for, for several years. We think it is even more pressing and imperative today than it has been in the past and we would like to see diplomatic progress, which we support.
Thank you all very much.