SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon, and let me begin by saying what an absolute pleasure it is to be back in Turkey and especially in this absolutely glorious city of Istanbul. And I want to thank the Turkish Government for hosting today’s meeting of the Libya Contact Group, which was very productive.
Before I discuss today’s events, I want to express my sincere condolences for the soldiers killed in Southeast Turkey yesterday. As friends of Turkey, the United States grieves with the people of Turkey. As allies, we salute the resolve not to be intimidated by terrorists who threaten the stability of the entire region, and we will continue to stand with Turkey in its efforts to defeat this threat. This is a message that I will be conveying directly to President Gul when we meet later this evening.
We accomplished important things in today’s meeting of the Libya Contact Group. We heard from the TNC about its plans for setting Libya on a path toward security and progress in the post-Qadhafi era. The TNC gave us important assurances regarding its intention to pursue democratic reform that is inclusive geographically and politically, and to uphold Libya’s international obligations and to disburse funds in a transparent manner, to address the humanitarian and other needs of the Libyan people.
The United States is impressed by the progress the TNC has made in laying the groundwork for a successful transition to a unified democratic Libya which protects the rights of all of its citizens, including women and minority groups.
The assurances the TNC offered today reinforce our confidence that it is the appropriate interlocutor for the United States in dealing with Libya’s present and addressing Libya’s future. That is why I announced earlier that until an interim authority is in place, the United States will recognize the TNC as the legitimate governing authority for Libya, and we will deal with it on that basis. In contrast, the United States views the Qadhafi regime as no longer having legitimate authority in Libya.
We still have to work through various legal issues, but we expect this step on recognition will enable the TNC to access additional sources of funding. We will be consulting with the TNC and our international partners in the most effective and appropriate method of doing this. In the meantime, we are pleased that our partners have contributed money to the temporary financial mechanism or they have provided direct financial support to the TNC.
Today, I also had the opportunity to meet with colleagues from Europe and the Gulf, across the region, on the full range of issues we are dealing with from Yemen to Syria to Egypt and Tunisia. So it’s been a full and very constructive day here in Istanbul, and I am very grateful that Turkey has hosted this important meeting and welcomed us to Istanbul so warmly. And I thank our partners in the Contact Group for another meeting that has advanced our shared goal of a peaceful, stable, democratic Libya.
Now I’d be glad to take your questions.
MS. NULAND: Time for two questions. First question, William Wan, Washington Post.
QUESTION: Thank you. Can you talk a little bit about the process that led you here, why it took (inaudible) past five months to get to this point? And then secondly, can you talk more specifically about what in Mr. Jibril’s presentation or comments put your mind at ease enough to take this step? How will they open up the council to get at that geographic, political inclusiveness you mentioned?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you. With our decision today, the U.S. does recognize the TNC as the legitimate governing authority of Libya. We did take time to analyze the situation, to watch developments, to both hear from and see evidence of actions taken by the TNC that accord with both their statements and their stated aspirations as well as our values. And we have also been encouraged by the outreach that has come from Benghazi throughout the country so that more and more areas of the country are being represented in the decision making of the TNC.
And ultimately and in keeping with the TNC’s own roadmap, we saw a way forward from the authority that we are recognizing being exercised by the TNC toward a Libyan-owned and Libyan-executed plan for a broad, inclusive interim body that will serve as the mechanism for a transition to elections and a full democracy. So we really acted in warp time in diplomatic terms, but we took our time to make sure that we were doing so based on the best possible assessments.
And today we heard again, as I have now heard in private and in public from Mr. Jibril and the other representatives of the TNC, what their plans are, how they are folding in to their governing mechanism local councils and their representatives. They are particularly focused on working with those in the West who are taking the fight to Qadhafi’s forces there. They’re continuing reassurance and recommitment to the kind of political process that we think will lead to a democracy. We believe them. We believe that’s what they intend to do. We are well aware of how difficult and challenging the road ahead of them is. We are a long way toward the kind of implementation that we all seek. We can watch what’s happening in their neighbors, which had strong institutions and long histories of those institutions working, how difficult it is to move from one kind of regime to a democracy. And here we have a country in Libya where it was part of Colonel Qadhafi’s modus operandi and modus vivendi, actually, to have no institutions. And so we think they have made great strides and are on the right path.
MS. NULAND: Last question, Michel Ghandour, Al Hurra.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, you discussed Syria with the EU and other foreign ministers. Have you asked them to increase pressure on Asad regime, and will you ask President Hu to do so?
Second, the new Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby has said that – from Syria that nobody can withdraw the legitimacy of a leader because it’s up to the people to decide. What’s your reaction to that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have had, as you might guess, a number of discussions today with our colleagues about Syria. I think we all share the same opinion, that what we are seeing from the Asad regime in its barrage of words, false promises, and accusations is not being translated into any path forward for the Syrian people. And it is ultimately the responsibility of the Syrian people to choose and chart their own course.
We have said that Syria can’t go back to the way it was before, that Asad has lost his legitimacy in the eyes of his people because of the brutality of their crackdown, including today. And we, along with many others in the region and beyond, have said we strongly support a democratic transition. But we also are well aware that the ultimate destiny of the Syrian regime and the Syrian people lies with the people themselves.
And I think this is still an unfolding situation. I don’t think we know how the opposition in Syria will be able to conduct itself or what kind of avenues for action are open to it. But I think we’ve made our views very clear, and the messages coming into Syria are remarkably similar, from everyone that I spoke with today.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.