United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:50 pm on 21st March 2011.

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Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes Labour, Ilford South 7:50 pm, 21st March 2011

I am glad to follow Dr Lewis, because he gave what I thought was his version of Tony Blair’s Chicago speech of 1999. Where Tony Blair had five criteria, the hon. Gentleman seems to have four, but the consequence would still be the interventionist view that I know he has held for many years.

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman should be so pessimistic about the consequences of what is happening in Libya. None of us can predict what will happen. He is quite right that the Gaddafi regime may persist for some time, in some form or other. He is also possibly right about the alternative outcome of partition, which other hon. Members have mentioned. Another view is that we could be moving towards what might be described as “Somalia with oil”, which would be the worst possible outcome. Therefore, we in Europe should be particularly concerned about what is happening in Libya, because it is geographically on the borders of the European Union. Libya is not remote or a long way away; it is of vital, direct, national and European interest to us.

In that context, I want to praise the work of our diplomats in the UN, who have worked hand in glove with French diplomats in the UN to get the Security Council resolution. What has been done through co-operation between Britain and France, as the two European permanent members of the Security Council, is vital. Unfortunately, the Defence Secretary has left his place, but at least the Foreign Secretary is here.

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Interruption.

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The Foreign Secretary will know that I have given him his correct designation today, unlike when he appeared before the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs last week.

I wanted to ask the Defence Secretary about co-operation between the UK and France on the defence front, because clearly there is a new understanding and agreement. If, as is expected, the lead of the operation is transferred from the United States, there will be interesting questions about where it should go. Turkey appears to be blocking any development of a NATO-based command. What will happen then? Is an alternative arrangement possible? Clearly the European Union is not capable of performing that role and, given Germany’s position, would not be likely to do so. What will happen to control of the forces that are brought together? There will be a continuing US role, even though it wants to step back, and those forces will include other European states, the Qataris and others who will enter the coalition. Britain and France will be working at the core of that coalition, but we need to know how that will work in practice. Perhaps we could have an indication of that in the winding-up speeches.

In the time left to me, I want to concentrate on what the development of the Security Council resolution means for the future of international co-operation. There were four groups among the 15 members of the Security Council. There was Britain and France, which clearly saw early that an intervention had to be made to stop the massacres and the killing of hundreds of thousands of people in Libya. Then there was the United States, which clearly saw the same thing but, because of internal, institutional problems—and, I suspect, because the Obama Administration rightly want to take a multilateral approach to international politics, in contrast to the predecessor, Bush Administration—did not want to play the lead role.