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Europe and Eurasia: Press Availability With Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General Martin Kobler

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, and the UN Special Representative for Libya Martin Kobler will be addressing the meeting.

FOREIGN MINISTER GENTILONI: Well, first of all, I wanted to thank John Kerry, convening with us, with Italy, this meeting; and Martin Kobler, for the extraordinary effort the United Nations has made in these months and in the recent weeks. Then I will have a few words in Italian before giving the floor to John and Martin.

(Via interpreter) I believe that we can say that this has been a very important and positive meeting – positive because the decisions stemming from the agreement reached a few days ago, i.e. the decision to sign an agreement to establish a national – a Government of National Accord and consequently, to pursue the target of stabilization, as I said, in light of these decisions reached by the Libyan parties – we have witnessed what might be considered as an unprecedented convergence between 18 governments, three regional organizations – the European Union, the Arab League, and the African Union – which through a very comprehensive communique which we have approved, jointly agreed two key points.

Firstly, we affirm our full support for the agreement that will be signed next week. And time is of the essence at this juncture, and it is necessary for us to find a speedy solution to the crisis in Libya, not least given the terrorist threat. Therefore, we unanimously support the signing of this agreement next week.

The second point is that we undertake to supporting the implementation of this agreement, and Libyan leaders obviously will be responsible for implementing the terms of the agreement, knowing, however, that they can count on the support of the international community. And we all unanimously agreed that we support the new government that will be formed after the agreement through the work of the United Nations and by means of all forms of support, including economic support for the future stabilization of Libya.

We must be aware that solving these problems is going to require a long-term and consistent commitment. A very positive day such as today cannot solve all our problems, but we must recognize that today we have identified two extraordinary resources. Firstly, the leadership of all of the parties involved in the dialogue; and secondly, the unanimous support of the key international players for the initiative that is taking shape under the aegis of the United Nations.

Consequently, the result we have reached today, if it is supported by all, as we have stated, can really and truly represent a turning point in a crisis that has lasted far too long, with all of the consequences that this involves.

Over to you now. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Grazie, Paolo. Buona sera. I am really pleased to be here and very grateful to Paolo Gentiloni for his hosting of this important meeting, and for his willingness to commit Italy in the way that he has today, and that Prime Minister Renzi has, to the initiative to deal with the challenge of Libya. Italy, a near neighbor, obviously feels this challenge in a firsthand way, and Italy has a long history of engagement in Libya. So we are grateful for Italy’s engagement, Italy’s leadership, Italy’s knowledge, and we look forward to continuing to work together.

I’m also very grateful for Martin Kobler being here representing the United Nations. He is key to the road ahead. And I’m grateful to every single one of our ministers who are here. Seventeen countries were here today, and four international organizations, and the foreign ministers from each of those countries – in a couple of cases, their deputies – committed everybody to the same task.

We came here today – members of the Libya support group, neighbors of Libya, international organizations – because we cannot allow the status quo in Libya to continue. It is dangerous for the viability of Libya. It is dangerous for Libyans. And now because of the increased presence of Daesh purposefully migrating there, it is dangerous for everyone.

So we are determined to make the most of the fact that the majority of the house of representatives and a majority of the GNC have come together ready to sign an agreement, and they refuse any longer to be blocked by one or two people or by the individual politics. They are determined to speak and move forward for Libya, and we are determined to support them in that effort. It is time to break this deadlock. It is time to move forward and embrace the future of Libya. It is time to recognize our global responsibility, particularly those countries who have been supporting Libya for all of the four years of this conflict now – four years-plus – that bad habits have to be broken, a new direction, a new course has to be set.

So the presence today of representatives of those majorities who will sign this agreement committed to today, on the 16th – their presence reflects the broad international support that exists for a unified, secure, and stable Libya.

Now, conflict and instability have just gone on for too long, and the vacuum that has been left there is a vacuum that has been readily filled by extremists, and it takes Libya not to the direction of a government that can serve the needs of the people, but to the direction of chaos.

So the communique that we issued today calls on all parties to accept an immediate, comprehensive ceasefire in all parts of Libya. And no one understands the need for that better than the Libyan leaders who are here with us in Rome. They represent, as I said, a majority of both of the entities that have been at loggerheads and are now prepared to try to move forward. They know the unacceptable price that rivalry and personal ambition and/or strife are inflicting on the people of Libya. This is about the people of Libya – a country of 6 million people, with enormous resources because of oil, not even capable of pumping all of the oil that is available to them. This is a country that could turn around and invest in its infrastructure, its education, its health, its citizens, if it has a government that is capable and ready to do that. And that’s what we want to see.

Libyans have seen firsthand the hardships that are being felt throughout their country today, particularly in the east and the south, and by members of every clan and every tribe, and they have witnessed the emergence now of a grave threat to their country’s future in the form of terrorists affiliated with Daesh whose foreign fighters and loathsome ideology are despised by most Libyans, but who seek, regrettably, every single opportunity to simply exploit and terrorize and fill a political vacuum.

So today, those Libyan leaders, with the full backing of the United Nations and the international community, reaffirm support for a new Government of National Accord, in keeping with the framework that has been the subject of negotiations now for much of the past year. This is not a surprise. It is not something being strong armed on the people of Libya. This is something that Libyans have worked on. This has been developed by Libyans over the course of that full year of negotiations, and it deserves to breathe the air of a future and of freedom and of possibilities, and deserves to break out of gridlock.

So we expect – based on today’s meeting, we expect that Libyan officials will indeed proceed on Wednesday to formalize their support by signing the agreement, and more importantly, starting to implement it, putting together that government. And we, the support group that met here today, committed that when that government is formed, we are prepared to meet with it rapidly in order to begin to lay out the possibilities for what is needed in order to facilitate their capacity to govern.

Representative Kobler’s efforts to continue making progress on the Libya Dialogue Process is critical. And we hope many Libyans will now see this determination by their own citizens to move them away from this conflict and towards the possibilities of that future. It is up to Libyans in the end, and we were very clear to the Libyans who were here, who placed their hopes and aspirations into political action, and we wish them well.

Libya’s neighbors and other international friends pledged today to do everything possible to enable the welcoming process of unification, of reconciliation, and of stabilization. Now, we are under no illusions about the difficulty inherent in the road ahead. We know that there are differences in terms of how tribes and regions and individuals manage their internal affairs, and it takes time to overcome the legacy of four decades of dictatorship which robbed Libya of any kind of institutions of government that are legitimate. People have to learn now to work together and to develop administrative and political skills that are required to make the government work, and that is not easy, especially when there are still some inside and outside of Libya, for their own selfish purposes, who are uninterested in reconciliation, unwilling to compromise, and who actually want this process to fail.

As the communique we reached today makes clear, those responsible for violence and those who obstruct and undermine Libya’s democratic transition need to be held strongly accountable, and we are convinced that those who want to spoil Libya’s future are definitively in the minority. And after all, despite its difficult modern history, Libya has an enormous built-in set of advantages, starting with its young and dynamic population, and including its vast wealth of natural resources.

Since the revolution, the United States has invested about $330 million in aid, the vast majority of which was for humanitarian relief to a country that actually has resources and shouldn’t need it – a country, by the way, where both sides, or all sides are still receiving money from the central banking institution.

So the leaders who are here and who support a government of national unity we are convinced speak for most Libyans. And it’s the agreement that those leaders – our agreement of the international community meeting here today, that those leaders have endorsed what is the only legitimate basis for moving ahead, and that was said to us by the Libyans themselves. The Russian deputy foreign minister mentioned that he thought this meeting was important because it represented the reaffirmation, beginning of the reaffirmation of the actual state of Libya, and that it was critical for that reaffirmation to take place.

So we say that those who persist in trying to disrupt the agreement will pay a price for their actions. And as we look forward, the Security Council of the United Nations is a distinct path which we will employ in the days ahead, depending on our ability to frame that in a way that we believe is meaningful.

Now, Libya is a diverse country, but there is no inherent reason whatsoever that the Government of National Accord cannot succeed in bringing the country together and in having the groundwork for permanent institutions that will respect the rights and interests of all to be put in place. That is the goal of our meeting here today. That’s what we came here to advance. Because we refuse to stand by and watch a vacuum filled by terrorists because all of us are unwilling to do what’s necessary to help people who want their freedom, want their independence, want their country back.

Thank you, Paolo.


MR KOBLER: Thank you very much. First of all, I must congratulate Minister Gentiloni for having arranged this really big conference here with 17 member states, Friends of Libya, international organizations. The conference was important and it was timely, because it gave everybody the chance to boost the political process. Having been the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Libya now for almost four years, I sensed the big consensus and I was impressed by the consensus of the people of Libya to end the division, to be united as one country, not to be subject to terrorist threats – and this is the wish of the Libyan people.

Now we have the chance to interact with members of the Libyan political dialogue. Also here I was impressed by the cohesion; I was impressed by the courage of those who were there, who take great political and personal risks, but they represent the majority, the voice of the people of Libya.

That’s why I was very happy to be here in Rome today, and Secretary Kerry, thank you very much for your excellent contribution in moving this train ahead. I think the train left the station now, in the direction of signing this agreement on the 16th of December, in Skhirat. I’m encouraged by the cohesion of the international community, of all those who are around the table.

Now, there are those, of course, who still have concerns, who still oppose the agreement, and my message to those who oppose the agreement still and who do not want to join the mainstream in Skhirat is to broaden the basis now and really to come to Skhirat, to forget the divisions of the past, to look to the future. Because it all boils down to one important point: the people of Libya, they want to have a government of national unity, and the Libya Political Agreement which has been negotiated now for more than a year and which provides the government of national unity is something the Libyan people desires. It is very important from my perspective – perspective of the United Nations – to broaden the basis and to take those into the boat who really want to support this process.

The situation in Libya is at this time very dire. The economic situation is deteriorating. The threat of terrorism has to be addressed. And it boils down to having a government tackling this. And the consensus of the meeting today was also to address the problem of security – security in Tripoli to bring the government, which must be based at the end of the day in Tripoli, back to the capital, the seat of its institutions and the future seat of the government of national unity.

And I also made a few points on what the Libyan people and we expect of the international community. This is immediately after the signature, really to go ahead with the delivery of humanitarian assistance. As Secretary Kerry said, Libya is a rich country and it is a shame it is in such a state. It has to be brought together. The Libyan people deserve better. 2.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance out of a population of 6, and this has to end. And the participants of the Libyan dialogue who spoke to us today, they made exactly this point: “Help us, international community, to end the suffering, to end the kidnappings, to end the human trafficking, to end the terrorism in our country.” Everybody mentioned the fight against Daesh, which has to be tackled soon after the government will be in place.

I feel very encouraged once again by what we have heard today – the cohesion of the international community, the commitment of the international community to support the people of Libya, to stand behind the Libya Political Agreement, behind those who support the Libya Political Agreement on the way ahead.

Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you. There’s time for three questions. The first question is from Italian national broadcasting company TG1.

QUESTION: A question for the Italian foreign minister: Mr. Gentiloni, how severe is the threat that Daesh represents? We’ve heard some very worrying news lately, and what role is Italy going to play in this process that we are celebrating today?

FOREIGN MINISTER GENTILONI: (Via interpreter) Well, Daesh certainly represents a considerable threat, as you’re surely aware, and it is particularly consolidated in Sirte and surroundings. It is a threat that the international community will tackle in the coming months, just as we are tackling it elsewhere. The message of today’s meeting is very clear: In the long term, what matters is the stabilization of Libya, because this too can contribute to the fight against terrorism. Countries such as Italy, the United States, the international community are in a position to take on the terrorist threat and succeed, but in the long term, what we want is a stable and united Libya. And the role that Italy played for the stabilization of Libya is the role that we must play because of our geographical position, our political commitment, and of course it’ll be based on the decisions of the United Nations and on the requests of the Government of National Accord that we have all agreed to support. We are aware that there will be significant demands placed on our country, just as other countries. This is going to be a considerable commitment for us and for other countries because we’re turning a new page, but there are many other new pages that will have to be turned in the coming weeks, in the coming months. And Italy, rest assured, within the framework of the UN decisions and in the light of the new Libyan Government’s request, will have an important role to play in the coming weeks and in the coming months.

MODERATOR: David Clark, AFP.

QUESTION: Gentlemen, thank you very much for doing this. My name is David Clark. I report for Agence France-Presse, AFP. The agreement that has been proposed today between the Libyan parties will be signed in Morocco, not in Tripoli, and there was a protest in Tripoli as late as Friday against the agreement. Is there not a danger in pushing this process so quickly now that it will appear to many Libyans as a foreign-generated process? And when there is no basic security in Tripoli to allow a government to sit there. How can a government be formed? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it can be formed by the people of Libya who have been negotiating for a year to form a government, and they tried to do so a year ago – they ran into the kinds of personal roadblocks that I talked about, and now they have decided they’re not going to be the prisoners of one or two or three people; they’re not going to let Libya be the prisoners of one or two or three people, or small groups. They’re going to take their two majorities and stand up and speak for the future of Libya. Now, they want to obviously return when the conditions permit it, and they have a plan – I’m not going to go into it now. Martin Kobler is working on a plan. There is a signing, then there’s a period of time currently calculated at somewhere in the vicinity of 40 days – it could change; it may, plus or minus. But the point is there is a plan for how to have this government get back. And they’re determined to go back. All I can tell you is they declared to us, Libyans declared to us they don’t want another alternative. They want to go back to the appropriate seat of government, and they believe that they can. And so we’ll see as things unfold and develop. It’s up to Martin to present some of those judgments to them and – but they’ll make up their own minds.

So let me just absolutely disabuse everybody of any mistake here. This is a process driven by Libyans. Libyans have negotiated with Libyans – people who were elected in the house of representatives and people who broke away and formed their separate track have come back together, understanding the path they took is tearing Libya apart even more.

So they’re determined to do this. Nobody – none of us – no country that I know of outside has put this idea in their head. It’s their view of Libya, and they’ll speak for themselves. And by the way, they speak eloquently and passionately, and they will describe their own commitment to this path. The least we can do is to try to help them and assist them in ways because they’re, after all, the ones who are putting themselves on the line to achieve this goal.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Grazie. Nasser Bedri, Al Jazeera.

QUESTION: Nasser Bedri, Al Jazeera. Mr. Kobler, a very quick question: Can you tell us, please, who are the Libyan people who will be signing the agreement in Morocco on the 16th? Can you give us the names? And who do they represent, please?

MR KOBLER: Well, I think the press conference is too short to give you the names. I hope that there will be dozens of people who appear. But I give you the groups: This is, first of all, the members of the Libyan political dialogue – they have been sitting together to elaborate and to work out this agreement now for over a year, and this agreement is for a one-year-only transitional period. I think it’s not rushed that now this agreement is signed, because the constitutional process will go on and this is valid for one year, maybe extendible a little bit.

The second group which will be there – this will be the members of the house of representatives, of the GNC, who will be in Skhirat. And we have seen today the majority leaders of them; they have spoken to the conference here, and it’s up to them to bring them all to Skhirat.

And the third group, these are all those who want to join – the mayors, the municipalities, the political parties’ leader.

So I hope to have a large group together because it’s important, of course, to have a critical mass in Skhirat because this agreement needs legitimacy. And let me underscore once again: the agreement is not the end of the process. No. The agreement is the starting point – the starting point of the work to be done by the new government of national unity.

FOREIGN MINISTER GENTILONI: (Via interpreter) Very well, thank you. Good evening.