Dear Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Al-Thani, co-chair of this meeting,
Dear colleagues, dear guests,
I would like to welcome you all to Rome.
Three weeks after our meeting in Doha, the Libyan crisis still requires our utmost commitment. Colonel Qadhafi continues to kill Libyans, using heavy artillery, mercenaries and snipers. This is not a civil war: rather, it could be defined as the Libyan people’s resistance to the aggression of Qadhafi’s personal army.
The Contact Group does not intend to replace the Libyan people in outlining the future of their country. The Group brings together countries with a special sense of the international “responsibility to protect” and with a genuine wish to listen to the Libyan people, and to accompany them on the path towards a new and free Libya based on shared values. Participation in our meeting by the United Nations and the most relevant regional organizations provides an opportunity for significant understandings to be reached.
What is the significance of our meeting today?
First, we are here to display unity against Qadhafi’s attempts to divide the international community.
Second, we are here to display determination:
We shall not leave a divided and insecure Libya as a playground for Qadhafi’s mercenaries.
Our message must be that we shall keep up the pressure, using all legitimate means and with the aim also of convincing Qadhafi’s entourage to join the many who have already defected.
Third, we are here to display vision:
We need to work together for an effective ceasefire, followed by the combatants’ return to their headquarters and the start of a political process to found a democratic Libya. A Libya ruled by institutions elected as the result of a broad-based political process. In this context, we welcome the road-map outlined by the Interim National Council (INC).
Orderly preparation is needed. We should therefore make the most of the input of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy, Mr. Adbel-Elah al-Khatib, whose role will help create the conditions for a political dialogue to resolve the crisis.
Last but not least, we are here to take action:
I hope that more and more partners will consider establishing bilateral relations with the INC. This will help strengthen our Benghazi partners and increase the Qadhafi regime’s sense of isolation.
Military pressure is not a goal per se but it is a very important tool. I hope that other partners will decide to actively join NATO’s Operation Unified Protector, not just with a view to burden-sharing, but also because of the political signal that a broader membership base would send out. Stronger economic support for the INC is also needed. I welcome the announcement, to be made today, of the establishment of a special fund – known as the Temporary Financial Mechanism – that will permit funds to be channelled effectively and transparently to the Interim National Council. My deep thanks to Qatar for its efforts to that end since our meeting in Doha.
One very serious problem needs to be tackled as a matter of priority: the possibility for the INC to request the unfreezing of Libyan assets for humanitarian purposes. That money belongs to the Libyan people. Italy and France have already urged the pertinent EU bodies to seek a solution. We ask our partners, seated (as members of the Security Council) on the Sanctions Committee established by Resolution 1970, to address this crucial issue immediately.
That leads me to the subject of humanitarian assistance: an item I feel should be especially high on our meeting’s agenda. The UN, too, needs to have a clear leading role in this regard. I suggest that all members of our Group maintain a regular and direct interaction with the relevant UN Offices through the network of focal points in our capitals.
Furthermore, we must hasten to provide the INC with technical expertise in various fields to help them run their administration. Italy has sent a team to take stock of needs and is arranging for initial intervention.
This meeting is just one step for the International Community in a long process that needs to lead from ceasefire to reconstruction. A process that involves many serious challenges. I am confident, however, that if our determination is equally serious, the new Libya will prevail.
I now pass the floor to my co-chair, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Al-Thani.