Libya: “Building up the economy will be crucial” (Interview)

24.08.2011 - Interview

(This interview appeared in the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper on 24 August 2011)

There are conflicting reports coming out of Tripoli.How do you see the situation in Libya?

The reports we are receiving from Libya show how fragile and unclear the situation still is. The dictator must now accept that his time is up. There can be no more bloodshed in Libya.

Is it too early for victory celebrations?

Libya does not consist of just Tripoli and Benghazi. It is five times the size of Germany. It has 140 tribes, 30 of which are influential and important politically. That alone shows that there is still much to be done. The road to stability and peace is a long one. After more than 40 years of dictatorship, that is a Herculean task.

Where will Libya go from here?

Above all, it is important now to deal successfully with the political redirection towards democracy. After its clear decision for democracy, we recognized the National Transitional Council as our partner for dialogue. Building up the economy will also be crucial. Libya is a rich country. But the period of dictatorship has left its mark. What Libya needs now is a reconstruction effort to stabilize the country for the long term. Germany has experience and a special competence in this area. We will provide Libya with advice and practical support if that is desired.

What role will Germany play in the reconstruction effort?

In Benghazi yesterday we signed a credit arrangement for 100 million euro. This loan will be provided to the National Transitional Council and is intended to be used mostly for humanitarian aid and civilian assistance. Alone in Germany 7.3 billion euro of the Gaddafi regime’s assets have been frozen as part of the successful sanctions. We have to see that these funds are released quickly and are available to the Libyan people for the reconstruction effort.

Is civil war a threat?Experts are already warning that the situation may develop like it did in Iraq.

That is exactly what we must prevent. The National Transitional Council now needs our full support. All the forces in society must be moved along the path towards democracy.

From today’s perspective, was Germany’s decision to abstain in the vote on the operation in Libya really the right one?

We decided not to send German troops to Libya for military operations. But we did indeed make a political contribution. The sanctions and the international isolation were very significant. That cut off the Gaddafi regime’s access to supply sources.

But was it not the NATO operation that made the success of the rebels possible?

We worked for comprehensive sanctions to isolate the dictator. In the end, the will to freedom of the Libyan people was decisive.

Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) thinks that Bundeswehr operations in Libya might be possible.

We should first ask the Libyans what kind of support they really want. The National Transitional Council must say what assistance is necessary. The United Nations should assume a key role in the reconstruction effort.

What will happen with Gaddafi and his family?

The International Criminal Court has issued warrants for Colonel Gaddafi and part of his family. We will work to see that they are brought before a judge. Whether the court proceedings will take place in The Hague or in Libya will first be decided in Libya.

Questions: Andreas Herholz.Reprint with the kind permission of the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.

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