The so-called Libya Contact Group of international powers involved in Libya’s future gathered in Paris on Thursday for a high-level meeting, but a major summit is reportedly to be held in New York on the margin of the United Nations General Assembly later this month.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not attend the Paris meeting against the backdrop of the major summit in New York, as well as the controversial date of the Paris meeting, which coincided with the last day of the Muslim holyday of Eid al-Fitr. The Paris meeting was led in the absence of the US president, Barack Obama, as it was reported earlier that the meeting should not necessarily be considered a high-level gathering.
“We do not want to see Libya stuck in a dilemma between East and West. The decisions on the restoration of Libya and leading up to possible elections should be taken primarily by the people of Libya and the National Transitional Council [NTC],” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in response to reporters’ questions on his flight to Romania on Wednesday. The minister, who represented Turkey at the Paris meeting, also noted that crucial messages to Libya should best be conveyed through the UN.
Touching on the rivalry between countries in their relations with Libya, Davutoğlu noted that no single country should take the lead, saying that Turkey did not want to see Libya turn into a contested sphere of influence for states. “What matters is to send the messages to Libya through the UN, not through one state or another,” he added.
“Relations with the international community should be coordinated through the UN, while relations on a regional level should be conducted through the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [OIC], the Arab League and the African Union,” Davutoğlu suggested in support of the cooperative role of the international community on the future of Libya. “NATO should also carry out its operations within the context of UN decisions until Libya can provide its own security.”
The Libya meeting in Paris follows the emergency meeting of the Contact Group on Libya in İstanbul last month, which came on the heels of the NTC forces’ triumph in Tripoli over Muammar Gaddafi’s forces as they entered the ex-leader’s compound in the capital. During the İstanbul meeting, Turkey allegedly conveyed to the US that vital political decisions on the future of Libya should be taken at a summit that could be held on the margin of the UN sessions, a suggestion that reportedly gained approval from the US and brought about the possibility of a major summit to be hosted by US President Obama.
Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu, meanwhile, held a bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ahead of the meeting on Sunday. Davutoğlu and Clinton met at the US Embassy residence in Paris.
The Paris meeting was hosted jointly by the UK and France with the attendance of representatives from 60 states and the international community to outline a plan to assist Libya’s NTC in the transitional process that is projected to reach its conclusion with the holding of the first democratic elections in Libya.
The meeting was also designed to be a platform for the NTC to assist the interim council’s aspirations for a rapid recognition by the international community, which, in return, would enable the release of more than $1 billion in Libyan assets frozen in banks all over the world. Inaugurated by NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdel-Jalil in the afternoon, the meeting functioned as an opportunity for the opposition council to voice its plans for Libya’s future, including drafting a new constitution and democratic elections to be held in one-and-a-half years.
The Contact Group meetings also came under criticism with international powers discussing oil and trade opportunities in Libya, but the meetings are nevertheless considered vital by the Libya’s NTC in its attempts to avoid the power vacuum and instability that Iraq suffered from after the military intervention that brought down Saddam Hussein’s reign.
Libya is rich in oil that was left underexplored in the Gaddafi era reportedly, and which has the potential to propel the country to considerable wealth and welfare, but the lack of unity among the opposition forces to accompany their shared resentment of Gaddafi places the country at risk of instability that could potentially be disastrous for the stability of the fragile region. The country is also currently devoid of a parliament or much of the apparatus of a state, which were never installed during Gaddafi’s 42 years in power.