Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–April 27, 2011.
MS. FULTON: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Department of State. I’m very pleased today to introduce Ambassador Gene Cretz, our Ambassador to Libya, who’s going to talk to you about recent developments in Libya. Without further ado, I’ll turn it over to Ambassador Cretz.
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Shalom, salamu `alaykum, huanying, buenos dias, bonjour, buongiorno, zdravstvuite, and konnichiwa. I offer those greetings in the hope that you’ll go easier on the questions.
QUESTION: (Off-mike.) (Laughter.)
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Thank you. Good afternoon. I’m here today to update you on our efforts in Libya, the mission of our special envoy to the TNC, and the progress the international coalition has made in stopping the brutality and bloodshed of the Qadhafi regime. Since the last time I spoke with you, it has become clear that Qadhafi and his henchmen have no intention of ceasing the violence and bloodshed. Despite the claims of recent days, regime forces have continued to commit atrocities in Misrata and the western mountains.
As the Secretary said, the United States condemns the Qadhafi regime’s continued brutal attacks on the Libyan people in violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for a stop to all attacks on civilians and an immediate ceasefire. The indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas in Misrata has not stopped. In the western mountains, pro-regime troops have laid siege to civilian populations, apparently attempting to starve them into submission.
With that backdrop, I’d like to update you on two fronts. In the past several weeks, there have been several international meetings, including the contact group in Doha, the NATO ministerial in Berlin, and the Cairo meeting of the AU, Arab League, and the UN. These meetings have reaffirmed the resolve of nations to work together to address the situation in Libya. Separately, Chris Stevens, our envoy to the TNC, has had open and frank discussions with many members of that body and the opposition at large.
On the international front, the first meeting of the Contact Group on Libya was held in Doha on April 13th. The Contact Group came away from the meeting unified in its commitment to a set of core principles for the path forward in Libya. First and foremost, Qadhafi and his regime have lost all legitimacy and must relinquish power, leaving the Libyan people free to determine their own future. Qadhafi must also put a stop to his attacks on civilians and pull back from the areas that have forced – that they have forcibly entered.
The participants also agreed that the regime must comply with its obligations under international law, including the reestablishment of water, electricity, and gas supplies to all areas and unrestricted humanitarian access to all of Libya. Finally, the participants reiterated that a political solution would be the only way to bring lasting peace to Libya, and reaffirmed their commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and national unity of Libya.
The day after the Contact Group meeting in Doha, the Secretary traveled to the NATO ministerial meeting in Berlin. Assembled there were the foreign ministers of NATO allies and the countries which are participating in Operation Unified Protector. That meeting reinforced the NATO-led coalition’s endorsement of the principles set forth in Doha and the coalition’s commitment to seeing those principles realized. The Berlin meeting also resulted an agreement on a clear set of objectives for Operation Unified Protector, specifically an end to attacks against civilians, withdrawal of regime forces to their bases, and unimpeded humanitarian access to all of Libya.
Our Special Envoy to the TNC Chris Stevens, along with a small team of USAID specialists, arrived in Benghazi on April 5th. Since that time, Chris has met with a wide range of Libyans, most notably the political and military leadership of the opposition. Among those with whom he has had discussions are TNC Chair Mustafa Abdul Jalil and TNC Military Chief of Staff Abdul Fattah Younis al Abidi. Chris has assessed that the TNC, as we had previously reported, is a political body which is worthy of our support.
Members of the envoy’s mission are also meeting with representatives of local organizations and civil society as part of our effort to get to know the people in the opposition and understand the situation on the ground. The USAID team is working with international and local agencies to get a better picture of humanitarian needs and to coordinate responses. The overall security situation in certain areas of Libya affects the ability of the Stevens mission to reach areas and actors beyond Benghazi.
As you all have reported, the President, just last night, approved up to $25 million worth of – a drawdown of up to $25 million worth of nonlethal commodities and services to be provided to key partners in Libya, including the TNC. Items that could be useful to further international efforts to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas currently under threat by forces loyal to the Qadhafi regime include medical equipment, protective vests, and non-secure radios, and uniforms. With that, I’ll be happy to answer any questions that you have.
QUESTION: If you – if you’ve – if your envoy has made the determination that the TNC is a political body which is worth our support, why not now deal with the issue of recognition and recognize them as the legitimate leadership of the country?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: The – in talking about a body worthy of our support – I think this goes back to the original statements that I’ve made to you previously – that at that time, based on our contacts with them from the start, based on the fact that we knew some of them and based on their actions – not only their actions, but their statements over the first few weeks of their existence – we found them to be a credible body and that – one that we obviously needed to get to know much better, because this was a new situation.
I think what Chris has found – and I just spoke to him an hour ago – he had just met with Mr. Jalil – was to reconfirm that this is a serious group. They continue to say the right things, they are reaching out to the international community, they’re trying to be as inclusive as possible, they are working through the normal bugs that would be part of any stand-up transitional government that has not had – in a country where you have not had politics for 40 years. So I think in terms of what he has found so far, he would confirm or affirm that our determination that they were a serious group worthy of support has been borne out.
On the question of recognition, we continue to look at a – at all the issues with respect to Libya. As I mentioned when I was here the last time, the President has not ruled out anything on all those gamut of issues that we were looking at. Recognition remains a legal and an international obligations issue that we’re still studying, and we have not made a definitive determination on that question. But that has not stopped us from doing everything that we could to support the TNC and the Libyans. So I don’t see it as an issue. It’s an issue, but it’s not the main one that we’re dealing with right now. As I said, we – the – there are several – there’s a few countries – well, there’s a few. I think France and Qatar, I believe, have officially recognized it.
QUESTION: And Italy.
QUESTION: And Italy.
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: And Italy. And they’ve done that for their own purposes.
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: But as far as we’re concerned, I – we have not found that that has been any kind of detriment to the kind of effort and support we can make to the Libyan opposition.
QUESTION: Well, I’m not suggesting that it’s been a detriment. I just want to know why you haven’t done that. What is it that’s holding that up, given that some of your strongest allies, NATO allies, have taken that step, which – and I think you would agree – is a powerful symbolic move, or would be a powerful symbolic move, if you did it?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: I don’t know what would be the – whether, in fact, the impact of the recognition itself would necessarily have that great an impact. I know that the TNC has called —
QUESTION: Okay. Well, then, why don’t you do it?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Because it’s a complicated issue, and we continue to – we’re a very legalistic country, and we’re looking at all the different complexity of – that relate to that question.
QUESTION: So I should infer, then, the United States is more legalistic and more concerned about legality than France and Italy?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: No. It’s not just a question of legal – just a question of legalism. It’s a question that we’re – we continue to look at this issue, as we do so many other – of so many other issues related to Libya and what’s going on and the opposition – for example, frozen assets and things like that. These are issues that we’re – that are very, very complex and we need to continue to look at before we make a final determination.
QUESTION: Right. But it is a question that you have decided that they are worthy of your support but you don’t – but there is something that’s holding them up, like you’re not sure that they should be recognized as – you want – are you concerned that there are other groups out there that might be vying for – that are rivals for the title of legitimate —
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: No. The – no. At this particular point, I’d – like I said, I don’t think that it has prevented us from doing what we need to do to show support. And Chris is – remains on the ground, and he’ll be going about his activities and trying to give us more information about the group. So like I said, I think it’s just a matter that we’ve not reached a decision because it’s a complex issue.
QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, can you give us a concrete example – sorry – of why you can’t recognize them yet? I mean, like one legal —
QUESTION: What are the downsides here?
QUESTION: — issue that gives you concern, gives you pause? You mentioned the frozen assets. Is —
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Yeah. I’m – look, our legal people here at the Department have been looking at this issue, and there are – I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t get into the complexity of it. But there are issues with respect to what constitutes a government, what constitutes precedence in United States history for recognition. So beyond that, I don’t want to go say anything more.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Could I ask – you say that Qadhafi has no intention of stopping the bloodshed and he’s starving the people into submission. I was wondering – you as the ambassador, you’ve spent a lot of time on the ground there, you know the inner workings, you know the people involved. What, in your opinion, is the best way to get him to stop?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Well, if you take a look at where we have – where we started and where we are today, on March 15th, basically two days before the UNSCR 1973 was passed, we were on the verge of I think what we all consider would be a humanitarian catastrophe. We took Qadhafi at his word that he would go into Benghazi and commit a slaughter. Since that time, I think we have been very – I mean, the speed with which all this has happened, I think, is quite unprecedented in terms of our getting together a – number one, a very effective United Nations Security Council resolution; number two, getting together a coalition of our European allies and our —
QUESTION: But –I’m sorry. But all of the things – you’re talking about what you’ve done. You’re still saying that he has no intention of stopping the bloodshed.
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Well, what I’m saying is that it’s a deliberative process that we are engaged in with our allies. Number one was the military part, the protection of humanitarian life and trying to get services flowing to those cities that are affected by Qadhafi. And number two is the political part of that, which is the international consensus that now has become quite solid that in order for there to be a solution to this, Qadhafi needs to leave.
In terms of the – what will it take to get Qadhafi to stop, I mean, it’s a very difficult proposition when you have a government which is willing to bring to bear all its power and everything it’s got to destroy its population. This is a very difficult issue for all of us. Don’t forget that this is not just one man who’s been in power for 40 years; it’s a system that’s been in power for 40 years. So I think the – I realize that the question comes up, “Are you patient, are you satisfied.” We’re doing all we can given the situation as it is. No one likes to be in a position to say that we find this to be a satisfactory situation, but I think that we are bringing to bear all we can in terms of our coalition partners, in terms of our own actions, and in terms of beginning to look at the political processes that hopefully will lead to an end to this.
But in terms of trying to stop Qadhafi, we have tried to – we’ve seen the defections of some of his people around him, Musa Kusa being the most prominent one. We’ve – we are trying to get other nations, obviously, to take positive steps toward recognizing the – or to having – to recognizing or to having a better relationship with the TNC. We’re looking to others to try to find a way to get a financial mechanism set up to strengthen the opposition and the TNC.
So these are steps that we’re all taking. There’s no magic bullet, so to speak, that’s going to convince Qadhafi to stop this. It’s going to be a combination of what we’re doing now, what we do in the future with – in terms of the other political tools, the nonmilitary tools, that we might bring to bear, and at some point, to get him to realize that the game is up and he’s got to go.
QUESTION: Do you see an issue of the clock running with the supposed invocation of the War Powers Act sometime ago that when Congress comes back, that they will – that they could be concerned about what – the U.S. role, what the military operation is there, and adding to that some of the concern that Senator McCain expressed a couple weeks ago asking NATO to step up some of its strikes?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: I’m not an expert on the War Powers Act, so I’ll have to defer that to my legal colleagues. But I would say that we have, from the start, been consulting and briefing Congress. I’ve had several discussions with senators, congressmen, and staff as recently as last week. So we are keeping them, obviously, apprised of the situation.
QUESTION: And do they seem satisfied – again, walking the thin line between the diplomatic and military separation here – but that they seem satisfied in those conversations that we are within the bounds of what’s legally required?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: I can’t speak to whether or not their judgment is that – with respect to where we are in the War Powers – I can speak to the fact that they appear to be quite satisfied with the kind of information that we’re briefing them in terms of what we are trying to accomplish with our coalition partners and how we see the situation evolving in the second piece of this, the political piece.
MS. FULTON: Mary Beth.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Mary Beth Sheridan from The Washington Post. Could you elaborate a little bit more? You mentioned the Qadhafi forces trying to surround villages in the western mountains and starve them out?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Right.
QUESTION: I mean, can you talk a little more about what’s going on and how you know this?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: When we – as I mentioned last time, when we reconstituted my embassy team back here in Washington, once they were evacuated and we ceased – we closed our – when we suspended our operations, in effect, we brought with us a wealth of talent and knowledge and experience. And a lot of the people that are here now with the team have maintained contacts throughout the country.
One of the – I call it the jewel in the crown – of our activities during those two years in Libya was to expand our contacts throughout the country. We had a very, very good public affairs office which met people throughout the country. And we have maintained contact with people throughout the country, including in the western part, which has proven largely inaccessible, I think, to most media or other kind of contact. And from these people, we have been able to get almost daily reports about the situation in the west, and about the brutal kind of activities that Qadhafi is taking against the west, especially when you think that the – especially in the Berber areas and places like Yefren and other parts of the western mountains, where there has always been a suspicion on the part of Qadhafi toward the Berber groups. And so he’s been – I think, from the reports we’re getting, that they have been especially brutal in going after those mountain towns in the western mountains.
QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, I was wondering one element that you mentioned was the defections, and we had Musa Kusa, but since then, there really doesn’t seem to have been many – much success in peeling off members of the Qadhafi inner circle. I’m wondering why you think that is and what your assessment is of the stability of the sort of core Qadhafi regime right now. Are they really in it for the long haul? And if so, what are you going to do?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: I think that you – what you have left right now in terms of the support of Qadhafi, especially in Tripoli, is the hardcore – let’s call them the elements not only of his family, which apparently has banded together, but also of those military and security units which, in effect, have received the benefit of his largesse over the years and probably believe that their last stand has to be with him because they probably don’t have a future.
The reason – I mean, we had – there was a success in having Musa Kusa leave. I think what we are hearing – and we are, in fact, in touch with some of these officials from time to time – is that, in fact, they would like to break from the inner group. And this is not the most – the tightest inner group, which is really comprised of only just a few people, as far as we know and based on our experience, but these are people who head agencies and other technocrats. They would like to break, but they’re, number one, afraid of their lot, afraid for their lives, and they’re also afraid for their families.
So I’m not sure that one can characterize the current situation as not having more successes. I think that the situation of terror and fear inside Tripoli is so great that people who, I think, that I have known and that others have known who would normally like – who’d normally, up to now, would have broken with Qadhafi, are not doing it for those reasons.
QUESTION: And do you think that that situation is going to continue? I mean, there seemed to be – coming into this there were some hopes, maybe just in the media or elsewhere, that the regime would sort of fracture from inside and just shatter apart. What – do you think that that’s likely, or do you think –
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Well, I think that the actions that we are taking, along with our coalition partners, and what you saw the other day in terms of going after command and control centers in Tripoli, and in terms of our own continuing to reach out to these people, will send some kind of a signal to them that the time is fast approaching where they have to make a decision. And they can make a decision to either go down with the ship or else change sides and perhaps seek some kind of agreement as to their future lives or the future lives of their family, if that’s what’s important to them.
QUESTION: Could I follow up on that with Musa Kusa? Where is he? Do you know?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: I don’t know where he is.
QUESTION: Is he –
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: I know that he showed up in – he was in London and he showed up in Qatar.
QUESTION: But no one’s been in contact with him from the U.S.?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Not to my knowledge, not since Qatar.
QUESTION: So has he been a valuable –
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Hard to say, I mean, in terms of the actual knowledge that he’s provided. But I think as a symbol, he’s been important, and in the sense that we have shown to the people that remain in the Qadhafi regime, that here is someone that was a part of the Qadhafi inner circle, someone clearly who was problematic in the West because of his past, but also someone who has defected, made that decision to leave, and has not been imprisoned and is allowed to travel freely. So I think that that is a – well, travel freely, I mean, at least to Qatar. I don’t know, in terms of what his other travel freedom will be, but at least he’s been able to travel and —
QUESTION: Who decides where he can travel and not?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: That I’m not sure.
MS. FULTON: Lalit.
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes. Do you have any estimate or figures for how many people have been killed by Qadhafi regime so far in – after the civil war broke out?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Very hard to say. I mean, we’ve seen figures ranging from 10- to-30,000. I don’t think that we’re probably going to get an accurate number until we really get more hands-on experience on the ground – just very difficult. And don’t forget, we keep getting reports even from contacts in Tripoli and in the west of bodies that have been uncovered on the beach. We just have no sense of the scale of this thing until it’s over.
QUESTION: And secondly, based on experience with handling or dealing with the Qadhafi regime, when do you think he will give up, or he will never give up?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: As I said the last time I was here, one who knows Libya at all and one who knows the mind of Colonel Qadhafi or, in fact, those who are with him doesn’t speculate on what their intentions may be. The only thing I can say is that it’s going to be, I hope not a slow process; it’s going to be a deliberative process. And at some point, he’s got to realize that the game is up, that he – that this is just not going to be tolerated anymore by the international community, and the best thing that he can do for the future of the Libyan people and himself, perhaps, is to give it up and allow a democratic process and a new government to take hold in Libya.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. FULTON: Jill.
QUESTION: Jill Dougherty, CNN. I just have two parts. One would be the rebels themselves. You say, of course, that they deserve support, et cetera, but some people that I’ve heard in the U.S. Administration say that they are concerned that the rebels, as they are right now, are really incapable of winning this, and I would like to get your opinion on that.
And then also, if you – I know we’ve been over this many times but it continues to be an issue, which is the final objective. Yesterday or the day before, there was a confusion coming up from comments by the British about targeting Qadhafi. Then that was pulled back. You have President Putin raising the issue of oil. Every time it comes up, because it is so murky sometimes, it creates problems. Can you define exactly – could he ever be a target? Can you actually protect the people without getting rid of the man who is carrying out and directing this attack?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: On your first question, are they incapable of governing? I –
QUESTION: Well, and militarily, too, especially.
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: As – this is a – as I’ve said before, this is a group, this is a country that has not seen politics, civil society, anything resembling normal political or economic life in the 41 years that Qadhafi and his regime have been in power. So I think in these first two, not even maybe three months, we would expect that those who have bravely waged this resistance and now are trying to put together some kind of a governing body, are going to have problems in terms of organization not only on the political side, but perhaps on the military side as well.
But I think that we have seen progress. We have seen progress in terms of their – the way that they interact with each other as a group – the TNC – the way that they have reached out to others, the way that the – that they are talking to the international community in a very sophisticated way with respect to, for example, how to channel assistance to the TNC.
So I think the word incapable is probably a little too harsh. Are they in the throes of establishing themselves? Yes. Can we expect that they should have some problems? Yes. But are they going in the right direction? Absolutely.
I would also add that life in Benghazi has changed significantly. Chris and his team have reported, for example, that you have NGOs springing up, you have people debating with each other, debating political issues, you have a seminar at the university – I think it was yesterday – of a professor talking about constitutional issues. You have cultural events. You have poetry readings. You have newspapers. He and his team, and I think others have described the situation as a world that you wouldn’t recognize had you been in Libya on February 16th. So I think to their credit, this is part of the consequence of having a group like this which is – waged the opposition to Qadhafi and, in fact, we’re seeing what could be the world to be foreshadowed in the life of Benghazi right now.
In terms of the Qadhafi – you know our policy with respect to assassination. It was reiterated by Jake Sullivan here yesterday. I have not spoken to anybody, and I don’t believe that any credible group or individual sees a solution to the Libyan problem without the removal of Muammar Qadhafi, one way or the other. But we – our job is not – and our goal is not to – our goal is to get a political solution, but through the means that we are allowed to by our own laws, and certainly I think that those laws govern the actions of our coalition partners as well. And the solution is a transformation, a political process which ends up in a Libya and a government determined by the people of Libya.
MS. FULTON: Michel.
QUESTION: Yeah. Michel Ghandour with Al Hurra Television. Are you still talking to African countries or Arab countries to find a place that can host Mr. Qadhafi if he decided to leave?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: This is part – this is going to be part of an ongoing process, the second part separate from the military one. And obviously it’s going to involve who would – how would you talk about a ceasefire, what would the elements be. And certainly one of the elements of that political process, which we hope will lead eventually to a new Libya and a new Libyan Government, will be what Qadhafi’s fate will be. Those – we’re just at the beginning stage of kind of putting together the various steps that are needed to – that we’ll have to address, and certainly one of those will be what country potentially could accept Qadhafi if we reach that point.
QUESTION: Is there any countries that has accepted to host Mr. Qadhafi?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: To my knowledge, no. And I don’t – to my knowledge the discussions have not gone to that level of specificity yet.
MS. FULTON: We have time for about two more questions.
QUESTION: I’m Paul Richter with LA Times. I’m still a little puzzled by what the meaning is of your statement that the TNC is a body worthy of our support. Does that judgment open the way for the Administration to do anything else? Does it open the way – does it make more likely the Administration might provide them arms or any other kind of support, any kind of new diplomatic activity with them?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: From the start of the crisis, the President has not ruled out – everything has been on the table. So we’ve had, for example, the issue of recognition which we’ve talked about. We’ve had the issue, for example, of frozen assets, how to deal with them. We’ve had the issue of how to deal with the question of oil sales, which I would also note that yesterday the OFAC granted licensing authority to American individuals and institutions to deal with the TNC in terms of oil sales. The question of lethal arms has been there.
The question – any one along those gamut of issues related to the crisis has been on the table. And I think that as time goes by, and I said as our mission is able to provide us more information, we will be looking at the different things that we might be able to do to step up cooperation. At this particular point, I can’t tell you that lethal arms will or will not be provided, because there’s been no decision on that. I can’t tell whether, in fact, at some point in the future we will recognize the TNC. Those are issues that still remain to be determined. But I think that we – as time goes on, we are gaining at least a bit more confidence in the TNC.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that? Did I hear you correctly in saying earlier that you were encouraging other countries to recognize and/or support the TNC?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Well, those – even though that we have not reached the point where we’re – where we’ve made a determination that it would be in our interest at this point to recognize them, it may be that the – let’s say the constraints or – of other countries —
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: — or the interests of other countries to do it may well be to recognize them —
QUESTION: Well —
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: — or to do them – give them more support. For example, close down the Qadhafi embassies and allow the TNC to, for example, establish an interest office of some kind, as we have done here. So that’s what I meant by that.
QUESTION: But, I mean, if it is in fact true that the TNC is doing and saying all the right things and it basically transformed Benghazi into this Eden-like city where people are frolicking in the streets and reading poetry to each other and doing things like that, why not give them —
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: It’s not – well, first off —
QUESTION: — short of – I want to get off —
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Yeah.
QUESTION: — the recognition thing.
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Yeah.
QUESTION: But short of – why are we seeing them only getting uniforms and radios and not some kind of substantial economic aid, aside – other than just the AID – the relief, the emergency relief?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Yeah. Well, first, let’s take the Edenic view of paradise off —
QUESTION: Well, I mean, you’re talking about poetry readings, NGOs, cultural events, people in universities –
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: What I – well, I’m saying if you have lived in Libya on February 16th, you would have seen none of those things. And for them to be able to have created an environment in which these things can go on now – this is not a playful Eden where you have everybody – but it is a different kind of environment.
QUESTION: Exactly. Why aren’t they – so why aren’t you giving them more? If they’ve done this wonderful thing, why aren’t they getting more assistance?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: We’re – I think as I’ve gone through, we have – we are going on a step-by-step process to determine what is in our interest and what we can do for them.
MS. FULTON: The last question, please.
QUESTION: Yeah, a couple question. First of all, at the – from your experience – first, my name is Reza Allahyari with Voice of America. From your own experience, Mr. Qadhafi’s asking for or mentioned in one point that he’s going to bring the tribals if he feels that he’s not going to keep in the power. How do you see this one’s going to be feasible?
And the other one, to follow on up the discussion that you had with him, if you remember that in Iran that it happened 30 years ago, the same thing that you’re talking, the discussion that universities and such thing – your free movies, press, and all these things – we had it but it didn’t last long. So it’s not going to be a kind of indication that we are going to be moving toward that process. Would you please elaborate on it?
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: We can only take the situation as it is now. And you – we ask what is different today in Libya from the situation that we and the international community found ourself in on March 15th, two days before the UNSCR – the resolution was passed and probably two or three days before we were about to witness a slaughter in Benghazi.
And so I’m just saying that along the path – and this is only six, seven weeks out now, maybe two months total – look how far we have come. And for me to say that the – number one, that the TNC has built itself up as at least a credible organization right now, I don’t think that that is – I mean, I think that’s a realistic notion, but I don’t see why we necessarily have to focus specifically on the issue of recognition. And number two, to say that the life in Benghazi has changed significantly is also another data point or another reflection of how change can occur in Libya, which I think is part and parcel and a consequence of the actions that we in the international community have taken over the last several weeks.
So I think we’re moving in the right direction. We have the momentum, and I think to use what – how life has changed in Benghazi is a very positive and powerful, compelling point to make in terms of the kind of momentum that we’re building up. And the fact that – our sense is that it’s not only in Benghazi in the east that has a – has forged a consensus, as we have in the international community, that Qadhafi has to go and that a new process has to begin. But I think that’s a consensus that we have heard from our contacts in the west, the south, north, and the east.
So there is a Libyan consensus on this, and I think the momentum is in our direction. Is it as fast as we would like? Probably not, but this is not going to be an easy effort, and we knew that from the start. But again, take a look at where we were, take a look at where we are now. Has it been perfect? No. But I think we’re moving in the right direction.
QUESTION: And about the first portion of the question, the tribals, that they are trying to —
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Tribals – the tribal issue is one that everybody’s trying to use for his own advantage. The – one of the hallmarks, at least, of the grassroots revolution and the signs that you see, for example, in Benghazi at the beginning were: We are one Libya, we are not tribes.
Now, I – everyone knows that Libya, for thousands of years, has had a tribal society, and we know that they’re very important. And we know that they’re very important as social institutions, especially in the rural areas. But the manipulation of the tribes and the playing of the tribes off one another has been a hallmark of the Qadhafi regime since the start. And I think there is a recognition on the part of those who are trying to build this new Libya that while tribes constitute an important part of the social fabric, and they will continue to constitute an important part of the social fabric, they should not have the political power that has been vested in them by virtue of their relationship with Qadhafi over the years.
MS. FULTON: Okay. Thank you very much. Thank you, Ambassador Cretz, for your time.
AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Thank you.