Recent events in the middle east have demonstrated that the central finding of the strategic defence and security review—the need for the UK to adopt an adaptable posture with flexible forces—was appropriate. Given the vital importance of the region to the UK’s long-term interests, we will continue to monitor the still evolving situation before drawing conclusions on if and how it could influence the Department’s policies.
Does my hon. Friend agree that our allies in the Gulf play a vital role in ensuring security and stability in the region and that it is imperative that our Government continue to engage constructively and positively with them, particularly in these uncertain times?
I agree with my hon. Friend that the Gulf states are key partners in the battle against international terrorism and more widely. That said, we are concerned at events in some of the Gulf states. We urge all Governments to meet their human rights obligations, to uphold political freedoms and to recognise that those things do not run contrary to security but are in fact integral to longer-term stability. We believe that dialogue is the way to fulfil the aspirations of all, and we urge all sides, including opposition groupings, to engage.
The Government, rightly in my view, are calling for Colonel Gaddafi to be referred to the International Criminal Court. Does the Minister agree, therefore, that the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, should be similarly referred because he is killing and torturing just as many people in Syria as Gaddafi is in Libya?
I understand that Gaddafi has already been referred to the court and that that decision was taken internationally at the ICC. I entirely see the comparison that the right hon. Gentleman is drawing and it would seem to me that the international forces that reached the conclusions they did about Gaddafi are highly likely to arrive at a similar conclusion.