UK Foreign Secretary William Hague updated parliament yesterday on events in Libya, saying that we are clear that Gaddafi should go, and it is impossible to see a viable or peaceful way forward for Libya until he does so.
Mr Hague said that Britain has continued to take a leading role in international efforts to protect civilians in Libya and the case for action remains compelling: Gaddafi’s regime persists in attacking its own people, wilfully killing its own civilian population.
He said that our strategy is to intensify the diplomatic, economic and military pressure on Gaddafi’s regime, and, since the House last met, we have made progress on all those fronts:
On the diplomatic front, I co-chaired the first meeting of the Libya Contact Group in Doha on 13 April. The 21 states and seven international organisations represented demonstrated clear unity with participation from across the Arab world and the African Union in attendance.
The Group agreed that Gaddafi’s regime had lost all legitimacy, that the National Transitional Council should be offered further support and that the UN Special Envoy should take forward an inclusive political process. I will attend the next Contact Group meeting in Rome on 5 May.
At the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Berlin on 14 and 15 April, I joined colleagues in showing our determination to increase the pace of military operations to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973 [UNSCR 1973]. The 28 NATO Member States and six Arab countries that attended, 16 of which, out of the 34, are engaged in military action, agreed a common strategy.
That is an important milestone in world affairs, a sign of a growing ability to work across traditional regional divisions and a demonstration of the breadth and unity in the international coalition in support of the Libyan people.
On the economic front, since my statement on 4 April, further Libyan entities have been sanctioned and the regime is now subject to some of the most comprehensive economic sanctions ever agreed by the United Nations.
On military matters, since NATO assumed full control over all military operations on 31 March, more than 3,500 sorties and 1,500 strike sorties have been conducted.
”> This action has seriously degraded Gaddafi’s military assets and prevented widespread massacres planned by Gaddafi’s forces: they remain unable to enter Benghazi, and it is highly likely that without these efforts Misurata would have fallen, with terrible consequences for that city’s brave inhabitants.
Yesterday, Italy announced that its aircraft would take part in ground strikes and the United States government has contributed Predator unmanned aerial vehicles to the coalition forces. My Right Honourable Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is in Washington today to discuss the military situation.
Heavy fighting continues around the towns of Brega, Ajdabiya, Yefren and Misurata,” continued the Foreign Secretary. “The regime’s indiscriminate shelling of residential areas in Misurata shows that it continues to target the civilian population.
Gaddafi has shown that he has no regard for civilian lives. The ICC [International Criminal Court] prosecutor has said that there is evidence of a case against Gaddafi for crimes against humanity. We look forward to the prosecutor’s report to the UN on 4 May.
”> By his actions it is clear that Gaddafi has no intention of observing the conditions in UNSCR 1973 that I described to the House earlier this month. He has repeatedly ignored the ceasefires that he himself has announced.
Our military action is defined by the UN Security Council Resolutions. We are also clear that Gaddafi should go, and it is impossible to see a viable or peaceful way forward for Libya until he does so.
The Libya Contact Group’s statement made clear that, in contrast to Gaddafi, we and our allies regard the National Transitional Council as a legitimate interlocutor, representing the aspirations of the Libyan people. Our diplomatic mission in Benghazi is working with it. Our Special Envoy, Christopher Prentice, will shortly be succeeded by John Jenkins, currently Her Majesty’s Ambassador in Baghdad.
Last week I announced our decision to expand this mission with a small advisory team of British military officers. Their sole purpose is to support the NTC’s efforts better to protect civilians by advising on military organisational structures, communications and logistics. They are not involved in training or arming the opposition’s forces, nor are they executing or providing operational military advice.
This is fully in line with the UN Resolutions, and I reiterate to the House that we will remain wholly in accordance with the UN Resolutions, retaining the moral, legal and international authority that flows from that.
We have supplied vital, non-lethal equipment to assist the NTC in protecting civilian lives. So far this consists of telecommunications equipment and body armour. We are considering with our international partners further requests.”In the coming week, we hope to agree internationally the process for establishing a Temporary Financial Mechanism to provide a transparent structure for international financial support for the financial requirements of the NTC such as public sector pay. Yesterday, Kuwait announced around £110m worth of support for the NTC.
I am sure the House will join me in paying tribute to the skill, bravery and professionalism of the men and women of the UK’s and allies’ armed forces.
Their actions in the NATO operations have already saved many lives and their efforts are essential to bringing a lasting peace and a better future for the Libyan people who have suffered so much at the hands of this brutal regime. And I also pay tribute to the brave humanitarian workers who put their lives at risk.