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United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:35 pm on 21st March 2011.

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Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington 7:35 pm, 21st March 2011

May I refer to those points to which the Prime Minister referred? He said that he would support the sentiments of the amendment, particularly in respect of ensuring that we keep civilians out of harm’s way. When I asked him about depleted uranium, he assured me that we do not use it, but we have used it consistently over time, and it has caused all sorts of harm to people in the middle east. This country, along with France, objected to the international ban on the use of such weapons, but I hope that the Prime Minister’s statement today means that we will now support the ban.

The Prime Minister said that he supports what we say about the need for a middle east conference. We need to engage to try to secure peace and stability and to promote democracy in the region. My view is that we need to do all we can to demonstrate our commitment to peace. The military action has already caused deaths. We do not know whether they are civilians, but the reports from Tripoli are that they are not dividing people from Gaddafi, but actually consolidating his support. The sight of the same countries that invaded Iraq killing Arabs again is of immense value to Gaddafi in his argument that this is another crusader invasion.

We have heard already that the Arab League is falling apart, with different statements coming out in different languages to hide the dissent. The UN is also dividing, with Russia and China, as we speak, urging that military action cease. They are not abstaining, but are convening the Security Council to try to end the action. NATO itself is displaying divisions as well. We have also heard statements from Turkey refusing to take on a longer term role. I have to say that statements in the House and by Ministers are increasingly confusing about the objectives of the military action. The UN resolution does not refer to regime change, but ministerial statement after ministerial statement clearly lead to that conclusion. Although the resolution states that there will not be a troop invasion or occupation, we now know that there is the potential for special forces and boots on the ground. That is all playing into Gaddafi’s hands by calling up images of a foreign invasion.

The charges of hypocrisy cannot go away. There is the lack of action in Yemen, Bahrain and Oman. I am talking not about physical action, which I would oppose anyway, but about the mealy-mouthed ministerial statements. There has been no threat to use the international courts against these killer regimes or to seize their assets, and there has been no threat even of diplomatic isolation. Neither has it helped that the images are still fresh in people’s minds in the middle east of our Prime Minister’s recent tour of the region to sell arms to these barbaric regimes. Finally, of course, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington North has mentioned the hypocrisy of refusing a no-fly zone when Gaza was invaded. We now face the prospect of a long-haul engagement in military action in Libya.

We risk being dragged into on-the-ground bloody combat, followed by a counter-insurgency struggle and then vulnerability to a lengthy terrorist campaign. It will all threaten the peace and stability of the region and have consequences for our own people and the global economy. That is why the message today from the Chamber should be that we seek peace, that we want to ensure the safety of civilians and that our concern is for the peace of the region and the promotion of democracy overall. I urge the Government to take up the offer of mediation from the ALBA countries. I urge the Chamber to send the message that we strive in every way possible to bring all parties together to seek peace. In that way, we might yet have the opportunity to restore some credibility to the role of this country in the middle east. I do not believe that that will be done as a result of the bombs and missiles now hurtling down on the Libyan people and causing death and destruction.