Libya

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 20 January 2015.

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Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party 11:30, 20 January 2015

What assessment he has made of the political and security situation in Libya.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I met the Libyan Foreign Minister last week. The UK is concerned by the increasing violence across Libya. We continue to support the efforts of the UN to resolve the crisis and pave the way for peaceful dialogue. We welcome recent UN talks in Geneva, and call on all Libyans to resolve their differences through negotiation and compromise.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party

I thank the Minister for his answer. What lessons have been learned from our intervention in Libya four years ago? Will he comment further on the potential for peace following the Geneva talks?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The situation is very delicate indeed, but our military action in Libya did save lives. The UK’s actions in 2011 were consistent with our obligations under international law and, as the House will be aware, after four decades of misrule, Libya had been left with a political and constitutional vacuum. It was therefore perhaps inevitable that it would end up with a large number of groups jostling for power.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour, Huddersfield

Did the Minister see the Economist Intelligence Unit’s appraisal of politics across Europe, which shows just how fragile the situation is at the moment? Surely, if Europe is to be something of which we can be proud, it should have a view on Libya and be active on the Libyan question. The chaos in Libya is spilling over and affecting migration in the whole of the rest of Europe. When is he going to get Europe to do something about that?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

As the Foreign Secretary has just said to me, that subject is on the agenda for the next foreign affairs meeting in Brussels. It is important to recognise where things stand with Britain’s contribution. We are working incredibly hard with our special envoy, Jonathan Powell, and with the United Nations envoy, Bernardino León, to bring the political parties together. The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, however. If we do not get a resolution and find a political path to follow, that space will be taken up by insurgent groups such as Ansar al-Sharia and ISIL.

Photo of John Baron John Baron Conservative, Basildon and Billericay

Do not the vicious civil war in Libya, the high number of casualties and the fact that the Parliament has had to take refuge on a Greek car ferry prove that there is a deficit of analysis at the centre of our foreign policy-making process?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I can only repeat what I said—that we are working extremely hard to bring the political parties together. There is a danger that if these parties do not recognise the importance of taking advantage of the UN’s direction of travel, we will indeed suffer problems connected with ISIL taking advantage of the space, just as we saw in Syria.

Photo of Gisela Stuart Gisela Stuart Labour, Birmingham, Edgbaston

“There is a civil war, we are working hard and it is on the agenda next week”, but I still have no sense of what precisely the United Kingdom will say we should be doing practically to bring the two warring sides together and do what the United Nations suggests—building confidence so that we can find a resolution. What are we actually going to do?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

It is for the United Nations and the UN special representative to lead on this. We are supporting the UN in its endeavours. The hon. Lady simplifies the situation, however. She seems to suggest that it is just two sides acting against each other, but that is not the case. The country is made up of 35 main tribes and 100 other tribes. We are dealing with a complex history, and we simply cannot expect that, after 40 years of misrule, all parties will suddenly come together, because Gaddafi did not take advantage of that period to build the infrastructure and the political basis on which to move forward.