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Clinton's Remarks on UNSC Resolution 1973 Regarding Libya, March 2011

Speaker: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Published March 19, 2011

Secretary of State Clinton gave these remarks in Paris, France on March 19, 2011.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Before we begin, I want to say a few words about Warren Christopher. He was a friend, a mentor, and truly a diplomat’s diplomat. He served our country with such great distinction in so many capacities over his long and very productive life. There are a lot of days in this job when I ask myself, “What would Warren do?” From the Balkans to the Middle East, to China and Vietnam, he helped guide the United States through difficult challenges with tremendous grace and wisdom. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and with his many, many friends and colleagues throughout our country and around the world.

Now, this has been a quick but productive trip, and I want to give you a brief update and then answer your questions. First, let’s remember how we got here. As you know, Americans and people around the world watched with growing concern as Libyan civilians were gunned down by a government that has lost all legitimacy. The people of Libya appealed for help. The Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council called for action.

The international community came together to speak with one voice and to deliver a clear and consistent message: Colonel Qadhafi’s campaign of violence against his own people must stop. The strong votes in the United Nations Security Council underscored this unity. And now the Qadhafi forces face unambiguous terms: a ceasefire must be implemented immediately – that means all attacks against civilians must stop; troops must stop advancing on Benghazi and pull back from Adjabiya, Misrata, and Zawiya; water, electricity, and gas supplies must be turned on to all areas; humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya.

Yesterday, President Obama said very clearly that if Qadhafi failed to comply with these terms, there would be consequences. Since the President spoke, there has been some talk from Tripoli of a ceasefire, but the reality on the ground tells a very different story. Colonel Qadhafi continues to defy the world. His attacks on civilians go on. Today, we have been monitoring the troubling reports of fighting around and within Benghazi itself. As President Obama also said, we have every reason to fear that, left unchecked, Qadhafi will commit unspeakable atrocities.

It is against that backdrop that nations from across the region and the world met today here in Paris to discuss the ways we can, working together, implement Resolution 1973. We all recognize that further delay will only put more civilians at risk. So let me be very clear about the position of the United States: We will support an international coalition as it takes all necessary measures to enforce the terms of Resolution 1973.

As you may know, French planes are already in the skies above Benghazi. Now, America has unique capabilities and we will bring them to bear to help our European and Canadian allies and Arab partners stop further violence against civilians, including through the effective implementation of a no-fly zone. As President Obama said, the United States will not deploy ground troops, but there should be no mistaking our commitment to this effort.

Today, I was able to discuss next steps with the full group and also conduct smaller focused conversations with many of my colleagues. I met first with President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron. Both France and the United Kingdom, along with other key partners, have stepped forward to play a leading role in enforcing 1973. We reviewed the latest reports from the ground and discussed how we can work together most effectively in the hours and days ahead, and how we would work very cooperatively with our other partners, including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, as well as others that are not in that long list.

I also had the opportunity to engage today with my Arab counterparts, including Foreign Minister Zebari of Iraq representing the presidency of the Arab Summit, Secretary General Amr Moussa of the Arab League, Prime Minister Hamid bin Jasim of Qatar, Sheikh Abdallah bin Zayid of the UAE, Foreign Minister Fassi Fihri of Morocco, and Foreign Minister Judeh of Jordan.

We have said from the start that Arab leadership and participation in this effort is crucial, and the Arab League showed that with its pivotal statements on Libya what really that meant. It changed the diplomatic landscape. They have sent another strong message by being here today, and we look to them for continued leadership as well as active participation and partnership going forward.

With Sheikh Abdallah and Prime Minister Hamid bin Jasim, I reiterated our strong and enduring partnership. The United States has an abiding commitment to Gulf security and a top priority is working together with our partners on our shared concerns about Iranian behavior in the region. We share the view that Iran’s activities in the Gulf, including its efforts to advance its agenda in neighboring countries, undermines peace and stability. Our Gulf partners are critical to the international community’s efforts on Libya, and we thank them for their leadership.

We also had a constructive discussion on Bahrain. We have a decades-long friendship with Bahrain that we expect to continue long into the future. Our goal is a credible political process that can address the legitimate aspirations of all the people of Bahrain, starting with the Crown Prince’s dialogue, which all parties should join.

Of course, that process should unfold in a peaceful, positive atmosphere that protects the freedom of peaceful assembly while ensuring that students can go to school, businesses can operate, and people can undertake their normal daily activities.

My GCC counterparts said they share the same goals in Bahrain. Now, Bahrain obviously has the sovereign right to invite GCC forces into its territory under its defense and security agreements. The GCC has also announced a major aid package for economic and social development in Bahrain. We have made clear that security alone cannot resolve the challenges facing Bahrain. As I said earlier this week, violence is not and cannot be the answer. A political process is. We have raised our concerns about the current measures directly with Bahraini officials and will continue to do so.

With all of these partners, we have discussed the urgent humanitarian needs arising from the crisis in Libya. I thanked the Arab leaders for their generous contributions to aid refugees fleeing Qadhafi’s violence, and we agreed that this will be a critical concern in the days ahead. Egypt and Tunisia, in particular, will need all of our support. The United States has made significant pledges of assistance, and we look to all our allies and partners to join us in this work.

Now, this is a fluid and fast-moving situation, which may be the understatement of the time. And I know that there are lots of questions that people have about what next and what will we be doing. So let me just underscore the key point: This is a broad international effort; the world will not sit idly by while more innocent civilians are killed. The United States will support our allies and partners as they move to enforce Resolution 1973. We are standing with the people of Libya and we will not waver in our efforts to protect them.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, will the U.S. military actively be engaged in actually (inaudible) sorties (inaudible)? Twice you said the U.S. will support our allies. And I’m just wondering how active will the military involvement be.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that I’ll stand by what I said. We will support the enforcement of 1973. We have unique capabilities to bring to the international efforts, and we intend to do so.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you mentioned twice here again that it’s important or crucial for Arab leadership and participation. Do you know exactly what that leadership and participation is now specifically and which countries are going to be doing it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Matt, I think the fact that we had the representation around the table that we did today and the very strong statements that were made by Arab representatives is extraordinarily important. But I will leave it to them to announce their contributions. I think that’s the appropriate way for any further information to be made available.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. But you do expect something more than them just being at the table today; they have promised --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, we do expect more.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you have – actually, the reports now coming in from Benghazi are that it is quiet and it appears that the (inaudible) have stopped. I know (inaudible) so I didn’t ask you earlier, but in general, President Sarkozy said that the doors of diplomacy will open when the aggression stops. Now, can you explain (inaudible) what that means? Is that the view of the entire coalition? Could it actually engage with Muamar Qadhafi after (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, I will let President Sarkozy explain his own statement, but our assessment is that the aggressive actions by Qadhafi forces continue in many places in the country. We saw it over the last 24 hours and we have seen no real effort on the part of the Qadhafi forces to abide by a ceasefire, despite the rhetoric.

Several of the speakers around the table said forcefully that they’ve heard these words, they’ve heard them publicly, they were conveyed privately, and they are not true. So I think our assessment is that it’s time for the international community to take action to back up Resolution 1973.

QUESTION: In terms of the goal of this operation, is it to protect civilians or is it to remove Colonel Qadhafi from power?

SECRETARY CLINTON: It is to protect civilians and it is to provide access for humanitarian assistance. If you read the very comprehensive resolution that the Security Council passed, it is focused on protecting civilians from their own government.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any indication – I know you said (inaudible) Bahrain or UAE (inaudible) fighter jets were (inaudible) at all?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Again, I’m going to let individual countries make their own announcements.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, the President’s comments yesterday seemed to stop short of repeating his and your calls for Qadhafi to step down. I’m wondering if (inaudible) go back to that question, is there any way that the U.S. could see Libya’s situation resolving itself with Qadhafi somehow still in play? And what does this action with the UN resolution mean for Qadhafi’s survival in (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Those are all questions that standing here are difficult to answer. And certainly the conditions that will unfold as we begin to enforce this resolution will make a new environment in which people are going to act, including those around Colonel Qadhafi. So I think we should take stock of where we are and how we got here, and how many times the international community called on Qadhafi to end the violence against his own people and to take demonstrable steps to end the aggression and pull back; and time and time again, starting with the first resolution, 1970, through the succeeding time period, there was no evidence that he intended to do so, despite various claims that were made.

And if the international community is to have credibility in this show of unit that 1973 represents, then action must take place. And if you look at all the possible permutations of what could or could not happen once the international community begins to enforce the resolution, there are many different outcomes and I’m not going to speculate on what will occur.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, I know you said you didn’t want to talk about what steps must come next, but what did the group of leaders today agree to do?

SECRETARY CLINTON: They agreed to take all necessary measures, including military actions, to enforce 1973.

QUESTION: But in terms of the details of that --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, those are operational details, Steven. I think that it’s understandable that we’re not going to lay out every asset that’s been pledged and every action that’s been endorsed. But I think the coming together under President Sarkozy’s leadership today to reiterate that the words agreed to in the Security Council were more than just rhetorical commitments but are being translated into very specific actions. Some countries are more public with their specific pledges to what they are willing to do, and others are looking at how they can best contribute. But the conclusion of this meeting was for me very positive because it was an unmistakable commitment to enforcing the 1973 provisions.

Yes.

QUESTION: What do today’s actions do to (inaudible)? How would they (inaudible) that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think as I said, French planes were in the air as we were meeting, and there will be other actions to follow. But there is no doubt that we’re going to begin to enforce the resolution.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, as you yourself have said, for much of the 40 years Colonel Qadhafi has run that country, it’s been (inaudible) an international outlaw. What is the compelling interest to the average American today to take this action?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think there are three very important interests. Number one, with all of the activities that Colonel Qadhafi engaged in the past, we in the United States had a very clear interest in trying to contain him and prevent him from taking both direct and indirect actions against us and our people as well as many others.

Following his decision to give up nuclear weapons in 2005, when it was finally resolved, it appeared that there might be a new opportunity from him to join the international community. But unfortunately, that has not borne to be true and we now have the very brutal crackdown that he is conducting, which reminds us all why he was considered an outlaw in the past. And it’s unfortunate, but it is a reality that we have to take into account.

Secondly, this has been a time of great ferment in the region, and you have two countries bordering Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, that are committed to a democratic transformation. And they have long borders with Libya and they are facing humanitarian crises on those borders. And there is a lot of concern about the people who are still inside Libya, both Libyans and third-party nationals that no one can get to and that are basically unaccounted for, and a very unfortunate surmise that Qadhafi does not approve of democracy and the actions being taken by his neighbors, which poses a lot of questions about what he might do in the future.

But thirdly, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council statements calling for actions by the United Nations were of historic importance. There was a recognition by the Arab countries that Qadhafi had to be suspended from the Arab League; but even beyond that, that a no-fly zone and related actions had to be taken.

I think it would be quite unfortunate if the international community were to have ignored those requests, and it is in America’s interests along with our European and Canadian allies to forge strategic partnerships with Arab nations as we move forward into this new era of change in the Arab world.

So there are very specific reasons, there are regional concerns, and then there are, in my view, very strong strategic rationales as to why the United States will support. We did not lead this, we did not engage in unilateral actions in any way, but we strongly support the international community taking action against governments and leaders who behave as Qadhafi is unfortunately doing so now. And we think an international order that can bring about this kind of unity is very much in America’s interest.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) as conditions are unfolding that will create a new environment in which people will act (inaudible) Colonel Qadhafi, is that – do you believe that (inaudible) in essence giving up on (inaudible) Colonel Qadhafi (inaudible) a lot of this (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think we’re aiming the messages at all of the decision makers inside Libya. As you know, there have been quite a number of defections. The opposition is largely led by those who defected from the Qadhafi regime or who formerly served it. And it is certainly to be wished for that there will be even more such defections, that people will put the future of Libya and the interests of the Libyan people above their service to Colonel Qadhafi.

QUESTION: May I ask a non no-fly zone question, which is you met with Mr. Jabril here in Paris not that long ago.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right. Not that long ago.

QUESTION: Are you any closer to making a decision on whether to follow the French lead in recognizing (inaudible) opposition?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We are not ready to make a decision. We have increased our outreach and cooperation with members and leaders of the opposition. We are in almost hourly contact with someone. But we think that the most important step for us to take now is to assist in every way that is unique to American capabilities with the enforcement of 1973, which is, after all, the principal demand of the opposition. And that’s what we’re trying to meet.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: What?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: With a lot of people.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. Lot of people. Yeah.

QUESTION: On the Hill, Senator Lugar and others have repeatedly suggested that they thought the President should go to Congress to have a debate over whether a declaration of war (inaudible) involving the United States in actions in Libya. My question do you is do you think that those comments – do you think that those are – there’s merit to that? And would you describe what’s going on now as a war?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. I think the President made that clear in a meeting with congressional leaders that he held in outlining all of the reasons why the United States was prepared to act in support of the international efforts on behalf of 1973. And of course, we would always welcome congressional support, but the President’s very clear that the United States is acting in a way that is within the existing authorities available to him.

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