The UK is at the forefront of the international effort to isolate the Gaddafi regime, deprive it of money and ensure that anyone responsible for abuses is held to account. We have taken swift action in the United Nations Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council. At the European Council on
Friday, EU leaders called on Gaddafi to relinquish power. They agreed to examine all necessary options to protect the civilian population. I have just returned from the G8 meeting of Foreign Ministers in Paris, where we agreed on the need for urgent consideration in the United Nations Security Council of a wide range of additional measures to protect the Libyan population from attack.
With a view to Benghazi, does my right hon. Friend recall the fate of the Marsh Arabs in Iraq who were encouraged to revolt and then left to their fate when Saddam Hussein butchered them? What is my right hon. Friend going to do if compliance with the no-fly zone proves to be impossible. Is he happy at the thought that Benghazi will be left to its own devices?
Yes, we are very conscious of what has happened on previous occasions. The Gaddafi regime has shown its willingness to strike back without compunction at its own civilian population and its ability to take back territory from people who have rebelled against his oppressive regime. That is why, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said yesterday, time is of the essence. That is why we have urged colleagues in the G8 and elsewhere to agree to further urgent considerations at the United Nations Security Council. Anything we do must, of course, have a clear legal base and widespread international support, so my hon. Friend must consider things in that light.
Does my right hon. Friend have confidence in the sanctions currently in force against Libya? What discussions is he having with allies about how to strengthen those sanctions against Gaddafi and his regime?
We have widened the restrictive measures against individuals close to Gaddafi. We have added the Libyan central bank and the Libyan investment authority to the EU asset freezing list. In so doing, the UK has increased the total of frozen Libyan assets in this country from £2 billion to £12 billion. Clearly, these things have an impact on the regime. We would now like further sanctions to be debated and agreed at the UN in New York, but I obviously do not want to advertise too much in advance what they might be.
There is certainly scope to take other non-violent means and the hon. Lady has provided some examples of it. I believe it is important to discuss them with our international partners before announcing them in any detail or giving notice of their coming into effect, but she is quite right to draw attention to the potential for further measures.
“not every nation sees eye-to-eye on issues such as a no-fly zone”.
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm whether specific proposals for a no-fly zone were tabled for discussion at the NATO Defence Ministers meeting last Thursday, at the European Council last Friday or, indeed, at the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting today?
When it comes to specific proposals, NATO is responsible for contingency planning and it is conducting it for specific plans for a no-fly zone. The other meetings were more at the level of political discussion of what is desirable. There are differences of view among many countries about this issue. What was agreed by G8 Foreign Ministers this morning was that we welcomed the recent declaration by the Arab League calling for a number of measures to protect and support the Libyan population. Clearly, what was called for by the Arab League included reference to a no-fly zone.
“We should not exclude various possibilities, and there is an argument to be made, but there are important legal, practical and other issues that would have to be resolved, including the UN arms embargo.”—[Hansard, 14 March 2011; Vol. 525, c. 30.]
Can the Foreign Secretary update the House on the Government’s position on each of those issues, given the deteriorating situation of the anti-Gaddafi forces on the ground?
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was quite right. The arms embargo agreed in United Nations resolution 1970 covers the whole country—that is, as it is understood by the members of the Security Council and by the vast majority of legal experts. The rebels and the Gaddafi regime are therefore in the same position as regards the arms embargo. One way of changing that would be to produce a new resolution, which would again require the agreement of the United Nations Security Council.
In the G8 this morning, we agreed to welcome urgent consideration in the United Nations of
“a wide range of measures to ensure the protection of the Libyan population” and to
“increase the pressure, including through economic measures, for Mr Qadhafi to leave.”
That now requires additional work at the United Nations headquarters in New York.