Paris Conference Urges Reconciliation


Nicolas Sarkozy: “The participants are going to ask the NTC to undertake a process of reconciliation”

Western leaders have urged Libya’s transitional authorities to engage in a reconciliation process with their enemies, after a summit in Paris.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who chaired the meeting, said anti-Gaddafi forces could achieve nothing without “reconciliation and forgiveness”.

Mr Sarkozy said all 63 nations at the meeting were committed to returning frozen assets to the Libyan people.

Col Gaddafi has still not been captured by the interim authorities.

In an audio message broadcast on a loyalist TV channel on Thursday, he vowed he would never surrender.

‘It’s up to the people’

Mr Sarkozy held the conference jointly with UK Prime Minister David Cameron – the two leaders who were instrumental in passing the UN resolution that allowed Nato forces to intervene in Libya.

This was not a moment for triumphalism, but it was clear that the British Prime Minister David Cameron and the French President Nicolas Sarkozy took quiet satisfaction from the turn of events in Libya.

Nonetheless the emphasis throughout this Paris meeting was on the actions of the Libyans themselves; both what they have achieved already (“it is the Libyan people who have liberated Libya” said Mr Cameron) but also what they must still achieve in the future. NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil called on his people to establish a society marked by tolerance, forgiveness and respect for the rule of law.

This is a message that plays well in Western capitals but these aspirations are a measure of the huge task facing Libya’s new interim authorities. A war must still be won while dealing with a looming humanitarian crisis encompassing shortages of water, medicines and food. And the institutions for a new Libyan democracy must also be constructed from scratch.

And both men stressed that Nato would continue its involvement as long as it was needed to protect civilians.

“We are determined to continue with Nato strikes for as long as Mr Gaddafi and his supporters represent a threat to Libya,” said Mr Sarkozy.

And Mr Sarkozy said everyone had agreed to unfreeze assets blocked when Col Gaddafi was still in power.

“After going around the table, it’s about $15bn of Libyan assets in our countries that are immediately unfrozen,” he said.

He added that the National Transitional Council (NTC) must engage in reconciliation in order to avoid the mistakes made in other countries.

Mr Cameron urged the NTC to make sure perpetrators of the “unspeakable crimes” that were coming to light in Tripoli were brought to justice.

Speaking at the same news conference, NTC leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil said it was now up to the Libyan people to push ahead with reconciliation.

“It’s up to you [the Libyan people] to accomplish what we promised: stability, peace and reconciliation,” he said.

The BBC’s Chris Morris in Paris says the gathering is full of symbolism, coming on the 42nd anniversary of Col Gaddafi’s emergence as the leader of the coup that overthrew King Idris.

But it is a sign that the NTC has been accepted by most of the world as the new face of Libya and that the international focus is beginning to move from conflict to reconstruction.

The EU announced on Thursday that it had lifted sanctions on 28 entities – including oil firms and port authorities – to help the NTC get the economy moving again. The decision will take effect on Friday.

The NTC received a further diplomatic boost on Thursday when Russia formally recognised its authority.