Statement at the 3rd Contact Group Meeting on Libya

Abu Dhabi

Check against delivery, E&OE

9 June 2011

Thank you Abdullah, Franco, colleagues.

Two or three points of acknowledgement; two or three points about Australian action in Libya and two or three points about future global action on Libya.

Firstly the acknowledgements — I think we should all emphasize one point again today and that is to acknowledge the courage of the Libyan people in facing danger every day to secure freedom and within that to acknowledge the courage of the Transitional National Council of Libya. This requires courage and determined leadership of the type that we've seen under Dr Jabril.

The second point of acknowledgement is to reflect on the courage day-to-day by of the pilots of NATO and non-NATO airforces, led by our friends and colleagues in the United Kingdom and France. This is an intense daily operation which is not without risk. It is fully risk-laden and we acknowledge their service including what is happening this very day as we meet here in Abu Dhabi.

Thirdly to honour, I think, and to recognise and acknowledge the contribution of this Libyan Contact Group. As someone said over lunch the fact that this group has held together well in recent months, acts with a single voice and has done so under quite extraordinary circumstances is a testament to the collective diplomacy and solidarity of this group bringing together countries as diverse as Australia, as Japan, all the countries of Europe and those of the Middle East and of course the United States.

I said I would make two or three points about Australian action — the first is today I've informed Dr Jabril in our discussions that the Australian Government now recognises the TNC as the legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people, and for those states who have not moved in that direction we believe that is important.

Secondly Australia remains the third or possibly the fourth largest global contributor to Libya's humanitarian needs right now, coming after I think the US, the EU and possibly the UK, but we also stand ready to do more.

Third, we'll send our first national mission of senior officials to Benghazi in the next couple of weeks to investigate what further needs to be done on the humanitarian front, in particular health and hospital needs in Misrata and in the field hospital needs in the refugee camps on the Tunisian-Libyan border.

Also, to investigate what post-conflict stabilisation assistance is necessary and we have a particular emphasis on the needs of the Libyan education system for the future. We intend in Australia to be long-term partners of this newly emerging Libyan democracy.

Now finally, two or three points on the future — future courses of global action.

Firstly, if I could say this, that we as a group, as we said over lunch, need to have a common message.

We were reminded of this by our colleague from Belgium and from elsewhere, that we need to be singing from the same hymn-sheet internationally.

We need to be singing from the same song-sheet internationally and that is we need to be singing the song that Qaddafi's days are now indeed numbered and furthermore we need to add to the momentum we have currently got both militarily, diplomatically, politically and economically in driving this conflict to a conclusion; a conclusion which of course provides freedom for the Libyan people. And in this context we must provide our full support for our friend and colleague, the special envoy of the United Nations Secretary General as the centrepiece of global diplomatic action. We must reinforce his role and his role alone, so that none of us in the international community are divided and conquered by the Qaddafi regime. That is my first point in terms of global action.

Secondly, as for the humanitarian crisis I'm taken particularly by the reports I have received from the meeting held this morning by senior officials with Dr Jihani from the TNC, himself a former World Bank official, which goes to the absolute imperative now of the needs to deal with the current crisis — that is the current crisis which unfolds in the battlefield and the current crisis of keeping the Libyan people alive while this military phase continues.

That is where the action lies now and we are perhaps deluding ourselves if we believe that we have any capacity to take our eyes off that right now.

We, as I said before, are significant donors to the humanitarian effort. I believe we have a gap in communication somewhere, and colleagues have made this point earlier today, including the Foreign Minster of Jordan earlier on, and that is that we need, I believe, as these member of states of this International Contact Group, at least a weekly UNOCHA update coordinated through the UN which tells all of us exactly what the current humanitarian situation is and where the current gaps are which need to be filled. If there is a gap on the ground where people are, for example, as Dr Jabril said earlier today, not having any food to eat and possibly facing the risk of starvation, we need to know that so that we can plug that gap.

But there is an information deficit at present and I would ask our friends, through the UN and the UNOCHA, to provide all of us at least, quite apart from the international community, with a weekly, detailed update of what each of the specialist agencies determines are its needs on the ground and how that can be filled by us as donors.

My final point concerning action is this, and I welcome very much the appointment or the deployment of Ian Martin from the UN in terms of the work of the International Stabilisation Response Team, because we believe this is very important. It deals with what happens post-conflict.

Ian Martin is well known to us in Australia because of the work which he did in East Timor, and he did it very well.

It's good to see you on board in a different hemisphere.

I'm sure you'll do just as well here — that was a success story, I'm sure this can be as well and you will have Australia's full support in the work you seek to do.

If we look specifically at the mission of this team, the ISRT, it's to deliver: a) an interim stabilisation analysis for all of Libya; b) costed-stabilisation proposals to address interim stabilisation needs in TNC-held areas – Benghazi and surrounding areas.

We are pleased to lend our support to this, we have already attached personnel to this team and we will provide it with further support.

We need its early reports as well on its stated mandate areas of provision of support for security in affected communities; building of core state capacity; restoration of basic services to affected regions; and resuscitation of markets, livelihoods and services. This is all practical stuff, and it needs to be done by a highly dedicated team. And again I go back to the point I made before in relation to UNOCHA — once these reports are ready they need to be rolled out to the donor community systematically and rapidly so that it can be met from the donor community in a coordinated fashion.

Abdullah to conclude, can I say that the solidarity of this exercise on Libya so far has been first-class by international standards. I've been associated with many such exercises in other parts of the world and this has worked remarkably well. Our solidarity in the weeks ahead as Qaddafi's days are in fact numbered will become more critical, but more critical again will be our solidarity not only over the next few weeks but over the next few years in order to assist our friends in Tripoli to produce a stable democratic state, and that will be, in fact, a test of our true democratic friendship once Libya disappears from the world's headlines.


Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555