Assistant Secretary Feltman Discusses Trip to Libya

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
September 15, 2011

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman discussed his recent travel to Libya via teleconference on September 14, 2011. Assistant Secretary Feltman spoke about his day in Tripoli, where he met with TNC officials, civil society representatives, and toured the remains of the U.S. Embassy. He said:

"We saw TNC Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil. Separately, we saw TNC -- the prime minister equivalent, Mahmoud Jibril. We also saw the deputy prime minister, who's also the economy and finance minister and the oil minister, Ali Tarhouni. We were with the minister of justice, Alagi. And we also saw the minister of health, Naji Barakat. Those were the official meetings that we had with TNC officials.

"We also had a civil society roundtable, where I was able to talk to people who were -- ranging from student activists to professional people who were working on relief activities, to sort of give their views of how they see the way forward in Libya and the opportunities they see arising out of the revolution there.

"I also toured what remains of our old Embassy, which was a sad event because I had been fortunate enough to visit that site over the course of the past few years and to see how we had developed it into a fully functioning Embassy, and it's pretty well trashed.

"But to balance that was a real highlight, which is to see our local staff, who in some cases were seeing each other for the first time since the revolution started. They gathered together in a town hall we had with our local staff, basically embracing each other. And it was nice to have our Embassy family reunited."

He continued, "...[W]e also visited the Tripoli Medical Center with the health minister and several doctors where we had the chance to visit with some of the people who had been injured during the battle for Tripoli, people who had tried to raise the flag of the revolution and had been shot by snipers, things like that.

"The message I had for the Libyan officials was threefold. One, we respect Libya's sovereignty. Going forward, we want to work within the context of Libya's sovereignty and Libya's independence. Second, the United States and our international partners do have an enduring commitment to supporting the Libyan people as they chart their own future. And third, we want to build a broad relationship with Libya based on mutual respect and shared interests. Those were sort of the highlights of the message I was giving.

"But of course, there were a lot of things that we discussed within the context of those messages, such as the need for turning a lot of very positive language from the TNC on human rights, on respecting minorities, respecting the rights of those who aren't Libyans, who happen to be in Libya, into real action on the ground, making sure that the very positive language about women playing a leadership role in a new Libya, are translated into practice. And we also were able to discuss the meeting we hope to have next week among a Friends of Libya group, what the Libyans would like to see come out of that meeting in New York.

"Those are sort of the contours of the day. Now, just make a note. Tripoli, which I visited several times since 2008, is remarkably normal in atmosphere. I mean, not that I can say that I saw all parts of the city in a one-day visit, but stores are open, traffic is flowing, police are on the street. The public institutions are functioning with the people who bring the coffee in. The water is back on. Electricity is flowing. We went to a hotel for a meeting and people were in the lobby having coffee. There's a real sense of normalcy in Tripoli that one certainly didn't have immediately, say, in -- when Qadhafi's troops left Benghazi. You don't see the type of looting of public institutions, security buildings, that you saw in Benghazi. And there was one thing that the TNC was very conscious about -- a lesson learned from the Benghazi liberation -- was to make sure that there were messages sent out to protect the state institutions for the future of Libya. And it's something that seemed to work quite well.

"Frankly, the only destroyed or damaged things that we saw were driving by Qadhafi's old compound, and also the U.S. Embassy."

You can read the complete transcript of the special briefing here.


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