Wednesday

1st Feb 2023

France calls Libya victory summit, warns Syria

  • Jibril met Sarkozy in Paris on Wednesday, before heading off to Rome (Photo: elysee.fr)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called a high-level meeting on Libya's post-Gaddafi future and promised support - but no military action - for opposition forces in Syria.

The event is to take place in Paris on 1 September - the 42nd anniversary of the coup which brought Colonel Gaddafi to power.

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It is to be co-hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron and to include rebel leaders Mahmoud Jibril and Abdel Jalil, delegates from the 28-country-strong anti-Gaddafi coalition, the Libya Contact Group, as well as states hostile to Western intervention in Libya - China, India, Russia and South Africa.

Speaking with Jibril in the French capital on Wednesday (24 August), Sarkozy said Gaddafi's defeat has brought the Western and Arab worlds closer and that he was right to put France fully back into Nato in 2009.

"The West and the East are not condemned to confront each other, the people of Europe and Arab people are not condemned to misunderstand each other," he said.

"The reintegration of France into the principle organs of Nato did nothing to weaken French independnce - on the contrary, since France was, naturally, in the front lines during the military operations [in Libya]."

Sarkozy ruled out military intervention in Syria due to the lack of a UN mandate. But he warned President Bashar Assad to draw lessons from Libya and the Ivory Coast, where France also used force this year.

"We have made a strategic choice ... that we will be on the side of the Arab street each time the street struggles for democracy and liberty," he said. "We now have precedents - the Ivory Coast and Libya. This is not to say we will get involved in more conflicts. But we will not give up on our principles. Syrian people have the right to freedom."

For his part, Jibril called for the international community to help the Transitional National Council (TNC) in "the struggle for reconstruction."

He highlighted the need to quickly reopen schools and for medical aid, including mass-scale production of prosthetic limbs and psychotherapy. He also pledged to hold internationally-monitored elections and to draft a democratic constitution.

The TNC has asked the UN to unfreeze $5 billion out of the $110 billion of Gaddafi assets reportedly held in banks round the world. The US has so far drafted a UN text allowing for the unfreezing of $1.5 billion, with a vote at the UN Security Council expected by the weekend.

With Gaddafi still at large, Sarkozy pledged to keep up military support for the TNC as long as the colonel's loyalists pose a threat to civilians.

He denied reports that there are French soldiers on the ground, saying the French ambassador in Libya "has assistants, we have observers because we need information, but these are not special forces."

UN resolution 1973 authorising air strikes ruled out "a foreign occupation force of any form." But the fall of Tripoli has stimulated chatter about the need for international peacekeepers.

Nato spokeswoman Oana Lugnescu told the AP news agency on Wednesday that an options paper for a potential joint UN-Nato mission will come up for discussion next week.

"The council provided Nato military authorities with a set of political guidelines for a possible future Nato supporting role in Libya ... in support of wider international efforts," she said, referring to the North Atlantic Council, the alliance's political governing body.

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