By Mathieu Galtier.
Tripoli, 12 November:
The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, addressed the General National Congress on Monday. It was . . .[restrict]the first time that a foreign minister made a speech before members of Libya’s first democratic parliament.
During his remarks, Fabius reemphasised France’s support for Libya’s democratisation efforts, but warned of the threat posed to the transition by ongoing security issues.
“I am honoured to be the first representative of a foreign government to speak before your Congress in the new Libya; a Libya that is finally free” Fabius said. For the occasion, the Congressmen moved from their usual room to the symbolic one in which the results of the election of the first elected Congress were delivered.
More than one year after the fall of Qaddafi, Fabius insisted that France wanted to be a friend who “supports the democratic transition in Libya” following its role as a military ally during the revolution. In this way, Fabius proposed to free-up previously frozen funds belonging to the Libyan Investment Authority, estimated at $1.9 billion in 2011, through the United Nations and the European Union.
Fabius also spoke of the potential for cultural assistance. He said that France would double the number of young Libyans given grants to study in France from 300 to 600 and that French language teaching could be supported by France in Libyan university courses. He also announced that the Louvre Museum in Paris is planning a major exhibition on Libyan heritage next year.
The foreign minister then turned his attention to the challenges Libya must overcome in order to emerge as a true democratic country, beginning above all with security. Fabius strongly condemned the murders of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens together with three of his staff in Benghazi on 11 September: “There can be no democracy without security. There can be no security without re-establishing the authority of the State”, he said.
A conference to address security challenges in Libya will be held in the first week of December, and the French foreign ministry has proposed to hold the meeting in Paris.
Fabius suggested that border security would be an appropriate theme for the conference: “The border control issue is all the more pressing given the unstable situation Sahel”, Fabius said, in likely reference to the crisis in northern Mali.
This instability, he continued, “could have repercussions on your country and the entire region. France will help you in this should you so desire.” Unless these challenges were confronted and overcome Libya could find itself given over to disorder and terrorism, the foreign minister warned.
In a subsequent press conference, Fabius announced that France would not object to the extradition of Bashir Saleh Bashir, Qaddafi’s former chief of staff, on the proviso that he was formally prosecuted and fairly tried.
Fabius also emphasised the importance of the Libyan government respecting minority rights, in particular the rights of women, and the multiparty system.
The foreign minister also took advantage of his visit in Tripoli to announce officially that the Libyan airline Afriqiyah had agreed to purchase ten A350-900 Airbus aircraft in a deal valued at 1.1 billion euros. [/restrict]