Visit to Libya by H.E. Mr. Jacques Chirac
Press conference given by H.E. Mr. Jacques Chirac, President of the French Republic, at the end of his official visit to Libya- excerpts-
(Tripoli, 25 November 2004)
THE PRESIDENT - At the end of this official visit to Libya, I want, of course, to begin by thanking Colonel Gadhafi and all the Libyan authorities, who gave us a warm, frank and friendly welcome, which I appreciated.
Through this visit, the first to this country by a President of the French Republic, I wanted to show that France recognizes the fundamental changes seen in Libya for two years now. By making the necessary gestures to turn the page of a past which evokes, or evoked, painful memories in a number of countries, particularly ours, Libya has, I believe, opted for responsibility, reconciliation, extending a hand of friendship. She’s opened the way to her full reintegration into the international community. On the domestic front, she’s also opted to open up the country through the economic, political and social reforms she has implemented. France was keen to salute these moves and, it goes without saying, encourage them.
All the conditions have now been met for opening a new chapter in relations between Libya and France. This boost to the relations, which both parties called for, was obviously at the centre of the discussions I had with Colonel Gadhafi and those the ministers had with their counterparts, and we agreed to structure this new policy around three objectives: firstly, to establish a political dialogue on subjects of common interest, I’m thinking in particular of the Maghreb, the Mediterranean and Africa of course.
Secondly, to develop an economic partnership which requires stepping up the presence of French companies to support the reforms and the modernization Libya has set in train in a number of sectors, particularly the strategic ones for her development such as energy and the aviation industry, and also a number of others. And in this respect we concluded some agreements testifying to our determination.
Finally, to strengthen cooperation in line with Libya’s priorities - I’m thinking of sectors like tourism, an area in which we have also signed a development agreement. I’m also thinking of the protection and promotion of Libya’s archaeological heritage. (...)
The boost to Franco-Libyan relations falls within the broader framework of a move towards closer relations between Libya and the European Union (...). A number of steps have already been taken. Now we need to go further. I told Colonel Gadhafi that, in our view, Libya was destined to be part of the Euro-Mediterranean area and we hoped that she would soon confirm her application to join the Barcelona Process, whose tenth anniversary, as you know, we’re going to celebrate in 2005.
Finally, we talked about a whole series of regional and international issues of interest to both our countries and in which Libya is playing a role through her triple status, as a Maghrebian, Mediterranean and African State. Libya is destined to contribute to peace and stability throughout the region.
We also talked about Maghrebian integration and the prospects for cooperation between the European Union and the Arab Union of the Maghreb [AUM - Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya and Mauritania], currently chaired by Libya. We talked too about the session of the 5+5 dialogue [AUM + France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Malta] held yesterday in Oran at foreign-minister level and which is continuing. As regards Africa, we have convergent objectives, i.e. stability, security and development. The Darfur and Côte d’Ivoire crises tragically remind us that security is a continuing problem and it’s an absolute priority. I thank Colonel Gadhafi for his constructive efforts in these two crises. France and Libya can also work together for the development of the African continent in general, particularly in the fields of links, transport, etc.
(...) We obviously talked about the Iraq crisis. An electoral process has been launched in Palestine, as you know. We wholeheartedly support it, as in fact the whole international community does. As regards Iraq, I reiterated that we are giving our support to the elections scheduled for the end of January 2005 and remain committed to the implementation of every aspect of UNSCR 1546. Finally, earlier we signed five agreements: one on tourism (...), one with EADS on the aviation industry, another with Thalès, another with Vinci - that’s on the Great Man-Made River [GMR] project, and finally one with the universities (...).
Q. - On the Middle East, you talked about the Palestinian issue. Does France have a specific policy for supporting the Palestinian elections? Have you asked the Israelis to help the Palestinians organize the elections? As regards agreements with the Libyans, you talked about Côte d’Ivoire and Darfur: did you ask Muammar Gadhafi to calm things down?
THE PRESIDENT - First of all, the election in the Middle East, in Palestine, is constitutional, it must take place democratically, which presupposes everyone being able to cast their vote freely. France, like the European Union, will do her utmost to facilitate this election, particularly at the material level. The European Union will make its contribution to the material, technical and financial organization of this election. And I note that the United States has taken an identical position, which I welcome and is to me is a signal of a degree of American re-engagement in the quest for progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. So I hope it can take place on the scheduled dates and that from it can emerge a majority capable of effectively representing the Palestinian people and shouldering the Palestinian Authority’s responsibilities.
On the Darfur and Côte d’Ivoire crises, I didn’t need to press President Gadhafi to intervene in order to calm everyone down a bit, since it’s exactly what he did; our analysis of the African crises in general and of this one in particular are the same.
Q. - I’d like first to hear your assessment of Franco-Libyan relations, for the future, and also of the cooperation existing between Europe and Libya, in the Maghreb and the rest of Africa.
THE PRESIDENT - Now that Libya’s development has been possible by her choices, France sets great store by her political, cultural and economic cooperation with Libya. And since there’s no longer anything preventing this development, it was what we mainly talked about this morning. On European Union-Libya relations, Libya is certainly an important country in the Maghreb and has a natural and important place in Euro-Mediterranean policy.
She isn’t at the moment a member of the Barcelona Process. The Libyan authorities have their reasons for this, which I can understand. I nevertheless put the case to President Gadhafi for reconsidering this situation, since I think that Libya’s place is in the Barcelona Process and that it’s a bit of a pity she hasn’t joined it. I would nevertheless add that in the framework of the 5+5 process, relations, as you know, between the ten countries, including Libya are altogether excellent.
Q. - Have you got assurances from Colonel Gadhafi that the lion’s share won’t be given to the Americans, particularly in the oil sector, to the detriment of French companies. Second question, if you will allow me, on Ouagadougou. The Lebanese President is going to be absent because France sponsored UNSCR 1559 on Lebanon and Syria. How do you see the future with the Lebanese and Syrian leaders after sponsoring that resolution?
THE PRESIDENT - First of all, Libya aspires to increase substantially her oil production. She has the possibility of doing this and is envisaging this increase in what, in my opinion, are reasonable conditions. Of course, France will be interested in being involved in this effort. I don’t doubt that Libya will take the decisions most in line with her interests, which is of course normal. I have every confidence in her in this respect.
As regards Lebanon, I’d like to reiterate that France has always called for respect for Lebanon’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence. The Lebanese presidential election to which you allude could have been the opportunity to show that Lebanon had fully re-embraced her democratic tradition. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case. And it’s under these circumstances that we decided, with our Security Council partners, to send a solemn message on this subject by passing UNSCR 1559.
This resolution, completed by the presidential statement unanimously adopted on 19 October, shows that France’s concern is totally shared by the international community. We have only one objective here: Lebanon’s independence, sovereignty and integrity.
Q. - In December 2003, Libya took the decision to abandon her weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programmes, but Libyan citizens haven’t felt any great difference, apart from the satisfaction of the Western capitals. But we’ve just heard that France is going to help in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. How can that be interpreted?
A second question: can France and Libya, together, combine their efforts to help Africa, and how?
THE PRESIDENT - On the second point, France knows Africa well. She has interests in Africa. She has a lot of friends in Africa as has Libya. So it’s totally legitimate for us to work together. And we have every confidence in Libya’s involvement in a policy whose sole objective is peace and unity.
As regards weapons of mass destruction, we have saluted the decisions taken by Libya to renounce them. These weapons in fact cost a very large amount of money, cost the people a very large amount of money. And at the end of the day, one can question their usefulness, their target? So we have, of course, approved this Libyan position.
You talk about civilian nuclear energy, whose acquisition can, naturally, be an ambition for Libya, but which is not on the cards today. There’s no initiative of that nature. France, as you know, like the other nuclear countries, is subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) constraints governing the circumstances under which one can make the technology transfers necessary for the development of civilian nuclear energy. But there’s nothing on the cards at the moment.
Q. - What’s your view of the dangerous events in Iraq and, especially, do you think, unlike the Americans, that the world is less secure since the war?
THE PRESIDENT - I don’t link the situation we know there is in Iraq at the moment which, I hope, is going to lead, through the elections, to a political stabilization giving the Iraqi people back hope and the ability to act (...) with the safety of the world. I note, on the other hand, that the world, sadly - as regards the development of terrorism - isn’t a safe world. I deeply regret it, of course.
Q. - (...) Before you came to Tripoli, President Gadhafi gave an interview to "Le Figaro" in which he said that he regards the Euro-Mediterranean partnership as a peaceful reconquest by some European countries of some Arab countries in the Mediterranean. What’s your answer to him?
(...) As regards what President Gadhafi said on the Barcelona Process, as I said earlier, we see things slightly differently. Basically, President Gadhafi would like a strictly North-South Barcelona Process, i.e. including African and European countries around the Mediterranean. The Barcelona Process we created ten years, nine years ago, embraces the Middle East. (...)./.