The Ambassador of Libya opened up to Chuck Conconi about the state of the Syrian conflict, Gaddafi’s impact on the U.S.-Libyan relationship, and Libya today.
Libya‘s ambassador to the United States said the international community needs to do more to support the forces opposing the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
In an interview conducted by Chuck Conconi, Ambassador Suleiman Aujali said, “The Syrian people are in a very, very critical position, and unfortunately, they don’t have the support they deserve. There are thousands of people being killed, and the regime is open for any kind of torture and killing of its own people, and the international community, I think, is doing too little.”
He said the Syrian people “were not as lucky as the Libyan people, who had greater support from the international community and “a great resolution from the United Nations.”
Ambassador Aujali said there was no chance for political change in Libya while Muammar Gaddafi was in power, with international support making the critical difference. The relationship between Libya and the United States reflects that fact.
“Relations between Libya and the United States since the revolution started [are] completely different…. When the United States decided to support Libya, to recognize the provisional government and to support the no-fly zone and lead the coalition to stop Gaddafi from killing his people, the relation is completely different relation—a relation of trust, a relation of confidence, a relation of “how can we work together?” We have to repair the damage Qaddafi made for the last 40 years between the Libyans and the Americans.
Ambassador Aujali said “Americans are very welcome” in Libya and were welcome even before the revolution. “But before the revolution to express this feeling—you paid a very, very high price.”
He said hopes the United States will remain engaged in Libya because Libya faces significant challenges, including “security, investment, reconciliation, and treatment of the wounded. But the most important among them is security, creating army and police forces,” and will need American support.
The investment climate in Libya is “very open,” said Ambassador Aujali. He praised early investments by American oil companies immediately after the revolution, and he encouraged Americans not to be “scared” by the situation in Libya, but to do business there now. “This is about opportunities now. They should go. There are some problems in Libya, yes, but these problems are not against foreigners; these are problems among the Libyans themselves. And I think they should not wait until things are 100 percent secure.”
Ambassador Aujali gained fame during the uprising against Gaddafi when he resigned his commission as ambassador to the United States and joined the opposition.
“There was no other alternative,” he said. “When the regime is using heavy weapons against its own people just because they protest peacefully, to ask for space for freedom of speech and to find out what happened to 1,200 Libyan political prisoners who were killed in ’96, and Gaddafi and his regime and his mercenaries…faced them this way—I’m not here to represent that regime any more. I represent the Libyan people. I try to make that relationship workable between Libya and the United States.”