When asked about his reaction to the tragic death of the US Ambassador in Benghazi and whether he thought it was a one-off or part of a coordinated programme, the Foreign Secretary said:
“It is a tragedy, that is the first thing to say. This was a highly respected ambassador who worked very closely with many of our staff at the British Embassy in Tripoli and was working hard in the interests not just of the United States but in the interests of the people of Libya, and I called Secretary Clinton at the weekend to express our condolences and also to discuss the various security measures that each of our countries has taken. I also met the US Assistant Secretary of State Bill Burns in Baghdad the day after it happened last week and discussed the situation with him.
“I think the first thing to say about this is that the film was designed to provoke outrage and disorder, and, although I have not seen it, it is clearly a contemptible piece of work and we should be clear in our opinion about it. At the same time, there is no excuse for violence, and it must be understood across the region that diplomats working in Benghazi and other places are doing so to try to help the people of Libya. And I therefore welcome the clear condemnation of what has happened by leaders - including what are generally termed Islamist leaders - across the region, including by the President of Egypt, who I visited earlier the same day, and by the leaders of Tunisia and, of course, very emphatically by Libyan leaders.
“And I think it’s also important to point out, so that people can see what the true balance of opinion probably is in Libya, the outpouring of support, and the very strong reaction against the violence in Benghazi which our embassy has reported from Libya, where people have taken to the streets saying: not in our name. Our embassy have been inundated with messages condemning the attacks. The Libyan political leaders and leaders of the Government have repeatedly condemned what they’ve called a cowardly and criminal act. And in my own experience, and I’ve visited Benghazi twice in the last year, there are vast numbers of people there who want good relations with Western nations and, indeed, all nations and are grateful for all the assistance that we have given them.
“And so I believe we must continue our support for people in the so called Arab Spring, trying to bring freedom and democracy to their countries. This is a tragic event, but we must not be disheartened by it. We must continue that support and maintain our faith in their ability to succeed.”
A full transcript of the Foreign Secretary’s session with the Foreign Affairs committee will be available on the Parliament website shortly.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond addressed the House of Commons in response to reports that NATO’s policy regarding ISAF and Afghan troops working together has changed.