Extracts of interviews with CNN and Al-Jazeera
This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Prime Minister David Cameron has given interviews to CNN and Al-Jazeera ahead of the Paris conference on Libya.
Speaking to CNN
On the Libya conference in Paris, the Prime Minister said:
The Paris conference today that I will be jointly chairing with Nicolas Sarkozy is all about backing the National Transitional Council in the work that they want to do. But I think this is really important to stress: this is not the international community piling into Libya and telling the Libyan people what to do. This is a Libyan-owned, Libyan-led process. The international community are there to help, there to give assistance, there to give advice, but the action and the plan is being drawn up and carried out by the Libyans, and that’s right.
We have learnt the lessons from Iraq and past conflict; there have not been occupying armies, there have not been great big invading forces. This has been a Libyan-led process, assisted by the international community, and how we are backing them in the way that we should do - there are big supplies of water arriving in Tripoli today from Malta, there is a lot of international aid and hospital supplies coming through the ICRC backed by the United Kingdom - this is the right way to help that country get itself back on its feet.
On the decision to go into Libya, the Prime Minister said:
Well, I think it was the right decision and I think we did the right thing in Libya - the international community, particularly Britain, France, America, and some of the Arabic countries like Qatar and the UAE - I think we did the right thing and I think we did it in the right way. But above all, what this has been about, it has been about the Libyan people. They have chosen their own future; they have chosen to get rid of this brutal dictator and I think Libya now has a chance of a level of democracy, a level of freedom, a level of progress. I also believe that the Arab Spring will be able to continue and that is good for the whole of the world.
On the future of Libya, the Prime Minister said:
I’m an optimist about Libya; I’ve been an optimist all the way through and I’m optimistic about the National Transitional Council and what they are able to achieve. I think when you look at Tripoli today, yes, of course, there are huge challenges - getting water to that city, making sure there is law and order - but actually so far, the cynics and the armchair generals have been proved wrong. The Libyan people have shown themselves very capable of actually getting their hospitals up and running, getting security back on the streets and we see police officers going back to work. Of course it is still difficult, but there are very hopeful signs that this is a country with a leadership that wants to work and wants to come together and they have been given that chance to by what the international community of Britain, France, and others did, and I think it is very, very positive.
On democracy in Libya, the Prime Minister said:
Look at what the National Transitional Council have said; they have drawn up the plans for a democratic Libya, for a new constitution. This is not being dropped out of a NATO aeroplane, this is being delivered by the Libyan people. I think that is so important, because if this all goes as I hope it will, and that Libya will have this chance of democracy, future generations of Libyans will learn about the history of 2011 and they will see it’s a Libyan driven history. They drove this dictator out of his country; they saw this brutal regime collapse because of the sacrifices they made, because of the fight they put up in Misrata, because of their refusal to be overturned in Benghazi, because of the extraordinary bravery they showed in reaching Tripoli from the Jebel Nafusa; this is a Libyan revolution, this is a Libyan action. Young children in Libya in decades to come will learn about the bravery of how they overturned a dictator and delivered democracy. Yes, they were helped by NATO, they were helped by countries like Britain - and I’m incredibly proud of what our pilots did night after night to stop the Qadhafi war machine - but there won’t be democracy in Libya because of what we’ve done; there’ll be democracy in Libya because of the Libyans are going to do.
On the role of NATO, the Prime Minister said:
They clearly played an important role, both in, first of all, stopping a slaughter in Benghazi; that was the first reason for acting. We could see that there was going to be a slaughter - and when you see what Qadhafi has done elsewhere in his country, when you see the war crimes and the crimes against humanity he has clearly committed, and I hope evidence will be being gathered by the ICC and others right now while that evidence is still fresh - we certainly avoided a massacre and a slaughter in Benghazi. And yes, of course, under the UN resolution, we were able to take all necessary measures including hitting the Qadhafi war machine very, very hard, because he was using that war machine to kill, maim, and hit his own people. So yes, of course, we played an important role, but none of this would have happened without the bravery of the Libyan people themselves and, in the end, it is their revolution, it is their change; they’re the people who are driving this change and driving, I hope, the future of a democratic Libya.
Asked what his message was for Colonel Qadhafi today, the Prime Minister said:
My message is that it is over for his regime and that the forces that remain loyal to him in Sirte and elsewhere should give themselves up. It’s over, it’s finished, they are finished; they don’t have a future as part of Libya. The Libyan people don’t want them; that is apparent. And I think it is very important to avoid further bloodshed, that mercenaries - and there are still many mercenaries I’m sure fighting for Colonel Qadhafi and others in Libya - put down their arms and give themselves up. I think what we have seen so far from the NTC is there haven’t been wide scale reprisals. It is very important that everyone listens to what Chairman Jalil has said, who I think has spoken very wisely about this, to make sure there aren’t reprisals and that everyone has a part to play in the future of Libya. But clearly the Qadhafi family have committed war crimes and those are crimes that the Libyan people themselves will want examined and also the ICC as well.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera
On the humanitarian situation in Libya, the Prime Minister said:
What I would say so far, and it’s early days and there are still huge problems, I know, in Tripoli and elsewhere, is I think the National Transition Council has consistently surprised on the upside. If you look at Tripoli today, there are big problems, but the hospitals are back working again; bottled water and well water is getting through to those hospitals and to many people in Tripoli. Police are seen back on the streets. There aren’t the signs of breakdown and lack of order.
One of the reasons for that is this has been a Libyanled process. This has not been invading armies and occupying forces. It’s the Libyan people who’ve done this and have huge pride in what they’ve achieved. This is vitally important for the future of Libya, because children in Libya, in ten, 20, 30 years’ time, I hope, are going to be learning about what their fathers and grandfathers did in 2011 - brave people who gave their lives, in Misrata, in Zawiya, in Tripoli, to free their country of a dictator. They did this and they can be proud of it. I think that’s why the signs are that they’re coming together to rebuild their country - yes, with our help. The Friends of Libya group we establish in Paris today will be there to help them, but they’re doing a huge amount on their own. This is a Libyanled process and that’s how it should be.
On the situation in Sirte, the Prime Minister said:
First of all, Qadhafi, his henchmen, and his loyalists should lay down their weapons and give up. I think the NTC has been absolutely right in giving them a period in which to do that. That’s not something that Qadhafi did when it came to Benghazi; he said he was going to Benghazi to kill people like rats. The NTC has said to the Qadhafi loyalists in Sirte, ‘Lay down your weapons. Give up; the fight is over.’ It is to their credit that they have done that. I hope that now happens and that should happen.
On allegations of reprisal attacks by NTC on pro-Qadhafi forces, the Prime Minister said:
First of all, any crime committed on any side should be properly investigated and stamped out. Again, look at the contrast. Chairman Jalil has been absolutely clear, as have the whole of the NTC, that there should be no reprisals; there should be no breaches of human rights. They’re very clear about the sort of Libya that they want to build.