Washington — Deputy Secretary of State William Burns says the departure of the Qadhafi regime opens the door to a new future for Libya.
Burns led the U.S. delegation to a crucial meeting of the Libya Contact Group August 25 in Istanbul where representatives from 28 nations and seven international organizations urged the Libyan people to avoid revenge violence and stressed the need for national reconciliation.
“But the situation on the ground remains fluid, and the fighting has not ceased,” Burns said at the conference. “We must collectively continue to call for the immediate end to the violence, and to safeguard civilian life.”
The contact group urged the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution currently under consideration to unfreeze Libyan assets, and it called for ousted leader Muammar Qadhafi to surrender to avert further violence and bloodshed. The rebel-led Transitional National Council (TNC) is seeking to have $5 billion in frozen assets released to provide immediate relief to Libyans.
Financial analysts have estimated that nearly $110 billion in Libyan assets is frozen in banks worldwide, according to press reports.
The TNC has offered a reward for Qadhafi’s capture. The International Criminal Court, based at The Hague in the Netherlands, has charged Qadhafi with crimes against humanity.
Efforts to stabilize Libya in the aftermath of the revolution to end Qadhafi’s 42 years in power are being supported by the United States, NATO, the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Burns told delegates in Istanbul.
The Arab League is expected to seat the Transitional National Council at the league headquarters in Cairo on August 27.
“We join the Libyan people in honoring those who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much for this outcome — the courageous individuals who defended their homes and communities against Qadhafi’s violence, and the nations and international institutions that came together to prevent a massacre in Benghazi and to support the people of Libya as they stood up to a tyrant,” Burns said.
“Now we must bring the same resolve to supporting the Libyan people as they rebuild their nation. Libya’s future is far from guaranteed,” he said.
The Libya Contact Group recognized the TNC as the provisional legitimate governing authority in Libya at its July 15 meeting in Istanbul. Recently, the TNC gained further international standing after being recognized by Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq and Nigeria. In total, the TNC is now recognized by 54 nations as the legitimate provisional authority in Libya.
“The TNC has committed to pursue a process of inclusive democratic reform, to uphold Libya’s international obligations, to respect human rights and to disburse funds in a transparent manner to address the humanitarian and other needs of the Libyan people,” Burns told the conference.
The international community must support the TNC so it can fulfill its responsibility of providing security and basic services to the Libyan people, Burns said. That effort will require considerable coordination, he added.
Burns said NATO must continue to protect civilians under the mandate of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 for as long as that protection is needed.