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Transcript of SRSG Leon Press Conference before the opening of the Libyan Dialogue Session in Geneva

SRSG: Thank you very much. Good morning or good afternoon, really. It’s a pleasure to be back to Geneva again. We are starting a process, it’s going to be a long process, it’s going to be difficult, but I hope we will have many opportunities to meet and that this relation will be fruitful and satisfactory for everyone. Well you know we are starting these talks – the second round of talks organized by the United Nations – the first round of talks was called Ghedames 1 and after the Libyan Supreme Court decision, and some other events, we decided to enrich the group meeting, we have been for about two months, consulting with many different Libyan stakeholders and we have finally agreed with all of them to start this new round of talks this week.

There are two main goals: number one, to reach a political settlement, a political settlement that will be acceptable for all Libyans, including a national unity government, where all Libyans will be represented – we are talking of course about Libyans willing to engage and to agree on the main principles you know are presiding this dialogue – respect for the democratic principles, respect for the 17th February Revolution ideas, values, respect for the institutions, all the State institutions – the Legislative, the Executive, the Judiciary – so, rejection of terrorism. For all Libyans agreeing on these principles, we are proposing an agreement and we are proposing a new unity government to start solving the political differences. The second goal is to stop the fighting. I am sure you all know that Libya is falling really very deeply in chaos. It is not only the political chaos with the competing institutions, competing governments, competing chairmen of public companies. It is an extremely difficult situation for the Libyans and for the international community. There is military and security chaos, more fighting everywhere in the country, we had for a while a front in Benghazi and a front in Nafusa mountains, we have now a very difficult front in Raf Lanuf area where the main oil terminals of the country are, and you have to add the surge of terrorist activity, which has always been there, but in the last few weeks is becoming more and more concerning, present in many areas in the country, and if all these elements, the political and the security were not enough, now we have also a very serious economic and financial chaos. We have recently a statement by the governor of the Central Bank in Libya alerting that the country was really running out of time. We need to address all this if we want to avoid this total chaos in the country. Not only in the country, because Libya is in the heart of a strategic region, whatever is affecting Libya is affecting the whole region – is affecting the Mediterranean, is affecting the middle East, is affecting the Sahel, Europe, so it is really a very serious issue. I said this is a process, this is going to take time, we are not expecting to have a breakthrough tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. There is a gap between the parties, which is becoming more complicated, there is more fighting on the ground, so we will try to facilitate these talks and to help them to reach common ground, but it is not going to be easy. Although I have to tell you that the spirit of the people coming to this meeting and the ones who will decide whether they join or not join in the coming days is very positive.

The idea is that we will not take decisions here in Geneva. We will make proposals, they will agree on proposals that will be debated and should be supported by a majority of Libyans. So I have read some reports of people saying what kind of decisions will they take, what is the legitimacy of the people meeting in Geneva to take decisions. This is a group, people representing different realms: political, social, economic, civil society, and they will be joined, as you know, in the coming days and weeks by others representing municipalities, representing the militia groups, representing the political parties, the tribal leaders, so if there is an agreement to get out of this very deep crisis, it has to be really an agreement supported by most Libyans. This is the goal and the people meeting today are starting a process which, I insist, will be long and will involve a lot of people coming either to Geneva or to other venues because some of the subsequent meeting will not take place here, some of them will take place in Libya or in other countries. It is very complicated, also from a logistical point of view, process and I would like to thank our colleagues from Geneva and I would like to thank the Italian government and all the governments and countries that are giving support to what we are trying to do. And it will continue to be complicated. Nothing is easy when a country is in the situation that Libya is today. Let me also insist that we will work in full transparency, as I said before this is the place where we will make proposals, but no decisions will be taken, and transparency means also good communication with you, so I hope that this contact will be very fluid and that you will have plenty of information of what we are trying to do. Having said that, I will be glad to answer questions, if any. Thank you very much.

Q.: Thank you very much. You said the aim is to achieve recommendations and you are looking to get agreement on a unity government, but the recommendations need to be agreed by all Libyans. Does that, that implies that you are going to come up with a plan for a unity government and then take it to all Libyans for a referendum or a new election or something like that or do you see that a new government, a Unity government can be forged without that step. How soon can that happen and what is the process. Thank you.

SRSG: Well, we intend to have representatives from parliamentary realm, from municipalities, they have – and I think this is one of the interesting elements of this new round of talks, that municipalities play really a very important role in Libya today – are participating in this process. We heard yesterday that Misrata municipality is participating, which is one of the key actors in today’s conflict in Libya, that Zawiya representatives are coming, Gharyan representatives are coming, all these are very important cities in the conflict in Libya and the fact that they are coming and they will engage it means that whatever the decision, if it is agreed by all the participants or the majority of the participants, it will have a very strong legitimacy . They have their own… each institution participating in the dialogue has their own ways to deliberate internally and to express support . What I mean is that if there is a mayor or a representative of a city, for instance in the dialogue, and they agree with a proposal he will go back to his city he will discuss with the members of the municipal Council, the decision, and then they will express support. Because it is very important that whatever the solution, it has a very strong legitimacy, it has a very strong support of the Libyan people. I don’t think it will be necessary for an interim government that has to take the country out of this crisis to organize a referendum. I think this is too much saying. We have fighting on a ground, we have a very difficult situation, the role of this government is to take the country out of chaos. But you cannot organize elections or a referendum in chaos. So, we will ask all these institutions to deliberate to express support and then this government will have the mission to consolidate the ceasefire and the different elements that this will imply, militia withdrawal, weapons control, monitoring, all these elements have to be there. We will discuss also with the militias the security arrangements. And then this government might, if all the parties agree, start the constitutional process. But these constitutional process will require a country which is calm, which is prepared for such a debate. The constitution is almost ready. This should be the first step. And at the end of this process, then if the Libyans decide so an electoral process could be considered. This is maybe a little bit early to say … to have an idea of what they will decide. But at this stage the idea is that there is a very strong legitimacy but not a referendum.

Q: Mr. Leon, I have two small questions. My first one: As I understood you were talking on initiating with the National Conference in Tripoli until the last moment yesterday. If you can tell us what is the position of the National Conference to be engaged here in the first round of talks. My second question: I don’t really understand how come that we can have a ceasefire in Libya if the armed groups are not represented here in the first round of talks. Thank you.

SRSG: On the first question, we have been discussing with our Tripoli interlocutors for about two months, on the format, the framework and I think that we have made an important progress in creating a framework that will work for them and of course will work for all people attending this dialogue. I’m sure we have not all the elements that for them could have made a perfect setting and a perfect framework. It never happens. You can never if you had a setting and a framework that would be perfect for all participants probably you would not need negotiations. You need negotiations because sometimes there is people that are not easy for you to deal with or there are some elements you would like to tackle before or after. But let me say that I think all these substantive points that they would like to see in terms of agenda, in terms of target, in terms of framework for these talks are there. We don’t expect everybody to agree on everything. Maybe an agreement will be possible maybe not. But, now, we are here to talk. So the question is to decide to talk or not to talk. Not to agree on a final agreement, we are still far from there. And so I hope that when they will meet and will deliberate on Sunday, the decision will be to come and talk, because there is nothing to hide here. This is really a very open discussion and I think Libyans expect their different stakeholders to come and talk, at least to talk. As I say, agreeing is something different. But what is the message if you decide not to talk? What is the alternative? Does it means that if you refuse to talk, the only alternative is war? Well this is something that will not work for the international community and will not work for many Libyans. Actually, I think it’s quite impressive to see how many municipalities and many actors in the fighting groups are supporting this dialogue. So as you know in the current situation in Libya we cannot speak about two camps perfectly defined. There are different groups in each one and as I mentioned before a number of cities that are here and are here to talk. Same as, for instance, the boycotters from the HOR who are here to talk. These people are from that camp too, so I would like to make very clear in this meeting that it is not one camp that is refusing to come and the other camp which is here today,. We have many people from both camps represented here today. And we really we hope that the decision on Sunday will be positive and that we will have the opportunity to have an open, a frank, discussion with all these representatives from different sectors, realms, institutions to make progress. On the second question, we have had equally an extensive consultation with the different military actors, the militias. And the ceasefire is a proposal that we have made to pave the way for this talks to be successful we are not talking about a long ceasefire where all details are agreed, but just about creating the conditions for these talks to be successful. Even before an official declaration of a ceasefire, I can tell you that the last 2 or 3 days have been very calm. So, for the first time, after combat and fighting that has been difficult in the last 2/3 weeks we have had a few days of calm. I would like to think, I’m not sure that this is the case, I would like to think that it is because we are having these talks and both sides are trying to show goodwill. All fighting groups in Libya from both camps, tell us we don’t want to fight, we want a political solution, we prefer a political solution. So, this is what we are trying to do. The idea has always been to start with political representatives and civil society but, as early as next week, we would like to start talking to the militias to the military actors. Officially, I mean in a conference setting. Because as I said the consultations with them, the talks with them, are permanent and probably you have seen some information in the media last week, we had the last meetings with them.

Q: I would just like to know, can you tell us who is present for the time being and what decision exactly do you expect on Sunday and by which group and the last question is from what I understand there is no direct negotiations.

Q.(Iinaudible) …circulating about a possible scenario is that both disputing parliaments will go into dissolving themselves and then the elected municipalities will assume legislative power as well as forming a national security council. Is that on the table?

Q: My question is more a follow up on my colleague’s question, in the sense that one of the parties is now for the moment absent here. How do you thing the next days, I mean, how do you begin now today this conversation, what happens tomorrow and for the weekend. You will still be in Geneva or you will travel to other places and still have conversations anywhere else?

SRSG: Who is present today, we have representatives from the House of Representatives, for those not very familiar with the situation in Libya, what is called the Parliament in Tobruk. These representatives are from those attending the sessions in the Parliament, and there is a representation of those who are boycotting the Parliament sessions. Some of them from Misrata, some of them from Tripoli. This second group is from the other camp, ok, but [question in the background: but they are here?[, they are here, yes.

You have representatives from the civil society. You have representatives from Women Associations. In both cases, these representatives are, although they come from the civil society, are close to each side. So they prefer not to be seen as taking sides in a very strong way. But obviously it is not a secret that they are closer to one side or the other. And we would like them to be the voice of these talks when it comes to the civil society in Libya, we would like them to be back to Libya and to be in touch with many actors in the Libyan civil society from the Women Association, from the Youths Associations, etc.

Just to give you an idea of, we will not go in details in all the lists, but let me just mention one name so that you have one of the women representing Women Association is Nihad Meteeq. She is the sister of Ahmed Meteeq, who was voted Prime Minister by the General National Congress back to May and this voting was, in part, at the origin of the crisis we are living today. So, just to give you an idea, that the kind of people who are here today, I think quite representative. We have people from Tripoli Congress, and in this case we have boycotters, people who refuse this Congress, this Parliament in Tripoli, as you know this is the controversy we have. And their colleagues met on Tuesday. They were supposed to vote to come here. But they decided not to vote. So they decided to vote next Sunday. We had been working on a ceasefire as I explained before in contact with the fighting groups, the situation is so fragile in Libya that we started to decide whether to keep the programme or not when we started to receive calls from municipalities, including municipalities that are very strong allies of Tripoli. Misrata municipality, they took a decision that evening, the same day we heard from Tripoli that they postponed the voting. The Misrata municipality met, they had a debate and they came out with a statement saying “we want these talks, this country cannot waste more time. We have to be there”. Immediately we got calls from Gharyan, from Zawiya, from other cities, telling us the same “we have to go ahead. We have no time,” so the representatives that are here today represent both camps, this is important to enhance, and the ones who will come when we start early next week with the municipalities or the militias will of course represent both camps.

The decision on Sunday will be to join or not to join. As I said we have been, you know, Tripoli voted about a month ago to have four representatives in these talks. We have met them four of five times to discuss venues, settings, principles, agenda, last time was last Thursday. We told them; “we have a ceasefire. We cannot…when it comes to a ceasefire, technically speaking this is a very complex decision and we have to be in touch with many people and to discuss many details. So we will go ahead, with this. We will have the time to vote and to take your decisions?” and they said “yes, we believe so”. So they met their internal committees on Sunday and their meeting on Tuesday but they decided not to vote. I really don’t know why, so on Sunday they have to vote if these four representatives who were voted more than a month ago will be allowed to come and to join these talks. And of course the door is open, will always be open. Next Monday, and in the future, at any time, they will be welcome to join these talks.

The idea of dissolving the Parliaments and municipalities, let me first of all say that I haven’t heard something very impressive when you deal with Libya is the Libyan creativity. You have, practically every Libyan has a plan for the country and all of them are excellent ideas but you cannot have all of them on the table. We are not in any case I can tell you this is not in the agenda of these meetings. What is in the agenda of these meetings is bringing in the municipalities. Why? because the municipalities represent consensus. In many municipalities you have representatives from different political trends, because they are democratically elected. So we believe that this will enrich our meetings and actually what I said before, about for instance Misrata municipality taking immediately the decision to come and to join shows what I am saying. So this is the idea. But we will have also tribal leaders which in Libya as you know represent a little bit the traditional political leadership and social leadership, not only in the East, where it is very important, but all over the country. So the idea is that the process will be very strongly supported socially and politically.

And finally let me enhance what I said before. It is not one camp that is absent, it is some people from this camp, that will have to… it is not that there are absent, they still have to take a decision and they will take it on Friday but there are many things, many people, many implications are on this process in terms of ceasefire etc.. and so we had to start these talks. As I said we start, the door is open, and they are always welcome and we hope that they will take their decision. We are not going to decide everything. Probably some of the most difficult questions will be on the table next week. So, by the time they will join, I don’t think we will have done something irreversible. But we have to take decisions on how are we going to organize the work.

For the moment these are proximity talks, so the decision was not to have all the groups together – how this is going to work… Today, we would like also to start the talks on confidence-building measures. This is very important, as some issues require urgent decision in Libya because there are many people suffering: in [regard to ] air transportation, in humanitarian, in displaced people… So we’ll try to start this debate, to start discussing what issues they would like to start with, and then hopefully next week if they decide to join, we will tackle other elements.

Q: First of all, how long will this particular round last? And I am wondering in any proposed unity government, is it a precondition that the internationally recognized government continue to head such a unity government or is it possible that that might change? And lastly the European Union has said that these talks, right now, are the last chance for peace. Do you agree with that.

Q: Two questions. You mentioned earlier about trying to get a national unity government . the question was asked earlier how we are going to appoint this government and I want to reinforce the question. Who is going to appoint such a government ? Is it going to be the House of Representatives and Congress? Or is the UN going to appoint the government? The actual mechanics of doing that . Secondly, you mentioned that both camps are here. That’s not true. The spoilers are not here. Libya Dawn this morning said that whatever was decided in Geneva it would be rejected. These people have got the guns, and we’re in this situation largely because of these people, so the elephant in the room is Libya Dawn, who are out there to prevent whatever is decided here happening, .so how is that going to be dealt with? Misrata is pulling in a different direction .But nonetheless, they have the power to spoil this. They seem to be divided at the moment.

SRSG: So this round will last until Friday. This first round will stop on Saturday and I would like some of the participants in these round to get in touch with their Tripoli colleagues and to explain the first meetings and the first discussions and to encourage them to join. They will take their decision on Sunday and then we will resume our work hopefully next Monday or Tuesday. The internationally recognised government, well, this government you mention was voted by the House of Representatives it is .. the question is the sovereignty that is behind the appointment of this government is the one that belongs to the House of Representatives that is here today. And they are here today, and I think a parliament is always legitimate to take whatever decision they wish. So, if they come and they think they have to agree on a new government, and they have to vote this government, I mean for the international community the recognition comes because it recognises that parliament and it recognizes the election behind that parliament. And the first Deputy Speaker is here, three prominent members of this parliament are here, they have been voted by their colleagues to be here today and it is … they have to take the decisions it will not be us but they have to take the decisions so it’s up to them to decide whether there should a new government, with a wider support all over Libya. Is it the last chance? Well, it’s always difficult to say, but I said at the beginning that Libya is running out of time. The Governor of the Central Bank said this financial and economic collapse may be a matter of days, weeks. There is all these terrorists attacks everywhere in the country, there is … we have seen fighting, very strong fighting, in different areas. We see some international movements, some international calls for military intervention. So if you put together all these elements, the picture is really very difficult. How many opportunities, how much time will Libya have to react if they miss these opportunities is difficult to say. But the general impression is that the country is very close to total chaos.

And that if they miss this opportunity it is very difficult to imagine that there will be a situation in the country that will allow easily to start a new process. And on the question of the government, the UN will not appoint a government, this is not our role and we, the UN and the Security Council and the international community, we will support whatever the Libyans support and really applying the democratic principles, abiding by the constitutional declaration but it is something that has to be decided by the Libyans and I think how to make sure that the new government will have a very wide support all over Libya and how all the people involved in the process will participate, there is no decision at this stage on how it will happen. I think we just landed in Geneva, we still have a lot of work ahead and I think they will take this kind of decisions when they will start talking and putting on the table different ideas. Let me insist that what is very important is that there is a very wide support. You mentioned Libya Dawn . but there are representatives of Libya Dawn that are here, that are supporting these talks, so I mean, Misrata is part of Libya Dawn, Gerian or Zawiya are part of Libya Dawn, they are part of the talks and they will be in the talks next week, so I can tell you that many important actors from Libya Dawn are here today or will be in the talks next week. When it comes to what you define as spoilers, I cannot, I don’t have the list and cannot tell you whether they are or they are not, or some of their representatives are here or not, but I hope the different trends, the different views, the more people we have joining now or at a later stage, the better. But it is very important to enhance that a small group of people, if it exists if is the case that a small group of people who do not believe in political dialogue and political settlement and who think that the solution is war, what you mean by spoilers are people who want war and not peace I think it has to be very clear that after some time of making a huge effort to bring many people from different realms to the table their time is finished and the international community, I am in touch with the most important international regional actors, in touch of course with the representatives of the Security Council, and the international community for those who want war will have no more patience, this is very clear.

Thank you

UNSMIL

This article was originally published here.

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