I would like to welcome the Ministers from the African Union here today. I’d also like to thank Minister Hamadi for his statement on behalf of the African Union. It is very useful to have this interactive meeting today.
The situation in Libya has a profound impact on all of Libya’s neighbours: African, Arab and European. The African Union therefore has an important voice in the international debate on Libya.
Support for Security Council action from African and Arab states, and from the African Union and the Arab League, was an important factor in the adoption of the Council’s resolutions in March. Together, we responded to the horrific actions of the Qadhafi regime against the Libyan people. Together we must assist the people of Libya in their bid for peace.
The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and the International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, travelled to Benghazi earlier this month to underline the United Kingdom’s support for the Libyan people. They discussed the National Transitional Council’s plans for a political roadmap for the future of Libya. They heard first-hand the enthusiasm of the people for a free Libya whose future is decided by the Libyan people, which we are committed to helping them achieve. We will do this most effectively if the international community remains united in that goal.
The actions of a broad coalition of partners have protected civilians, saved lives, and averted a humanitarian disaster, especially in Benghazi and Misrata. But Qadhafi continues to launch attacks against his own people. So long as he continues to do so, the coalition will take action to enforce the Security Council’s resolutions. NATO’s decision to extend its operations by a further 90 days from 27 June is therefore both welcome and necessary.
All international organisations must work together in bringing about an end to the crisis and in supporting Libya in the initial post-conflict phase. We welcome the efforts of the Arab League, European Union, and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to link their work to that of the Libya Contact Group.
The United Kingdom also strongly believes that the African Union has a central role to play. As the South African Foreign Minister has said, this will be most effective if it is co-ordinated with, and led by, the United Nations. The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Libya, Mr Al-Khatib, is leading the international effort. It is important that parallel negotiation tracks do not open up otherwise there will be a very real risk that Qadhafi will seek to exploit any perceived divisions in the international approach, which could inadvertently prolong the conflict.
Like the African Union, we believe that a credible ceasefire must be linked to a political process. That is why we fully support Mr Al-Khatib as he works to facilitate negotiations between the parties.
It is clear that a ceasefire with Qadhafi in place would not be credible. This is not about bringing preconditions to negotiations - a ceasefire would simply not be stable while he remained in power. Qadhafi has already declared a number of ceasefires, and he has broken every one of them.
Many African countries, as well as the Libyan Contact Group, recognise the need for Qadhafi’s departure. We hope that this can translate into a strong message from the African Union to the regime. The United Kingdom, along with our G8 partners, is clear that Qadhafi has no future role in Libya.
We must start planning now for post-conflict support to the Libyan people. We look forward to the African Union’s participation in the next Contact Group in Istanbul. This is an important forum for co-ordinating international policy towards Libya.
We should be clear that it is only through a concerted effort that the crisis in Libya will be brought to an end. Our priority continues to be the protection of the Libyan people. We and the Contact Group have repeatedly called for free and unfettered humanitarian access to all areas of Libya.
The United Kingdom has long and deep ties to Libya and its people, as do the member states of the African Union. All of us around this table share the same objective: a stable, prosperous and free Libya. We must work together, under the leadership of the United Nations, in pursuit of that goal.
Thank you Mr President.
For more information, see our Libya page
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