Libya

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th October 2017.

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Photo of David Linden David Linden SNP Whip 12:00 am, 17th October 2017

What recent discussions he has had with representatives from other UN Security Council member states on the protection of civilians in Libya.

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I have regular discussions with our P3 partners—the French and the Americans—and with Italy, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates on how we can bring together the international community in support of the United Nations plan for Libya, which in our view offers by far the best hope for that country and the best prospect of security for all its people.

Photo of David Linden David Linden SNP Whip

The Foreign Secretary has been widely deplored for stating that Sirte could be the new Dubai if

“they…clear the dead bodies away.”

This is just the latest gaffe from the Foreign Secretary. Will he do the right thing and apologise, or will he resign?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

We must all be aware of the reality in Libya, and indeed in Sirte: there is a tragic absence of security and the problems of that city have yet to be resolved. But when they are resolved—they will be addressed, and are being, with the help of this country—the people of Libya will indeed have fantastic economic prospects, and that is the objective of this Government.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

The power vacuum in Libya is sucking in economic migration from the rest of Africa, causing deaths in the Mediterranean as migrants try to flee to the European Union. What can the Foreign Secretary do to make sure that the international community recognises the scale of the problem that it faces in this benighted part of the world?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

As I have been saying, the key thing is to bring together all the sides in Libya—the two halves of the country, Mr Swehli, Mr Saleh, Prime Minister al-Sarraj and of course General Haftar—to change the Skhirat agreement of 2014 to get a new political settlement and then to have elections, and through those elections to produce a unified Government that we believe offer the prospect of peace and security in Libya.

My hon. Friend also raises the problem of illegal immigration, which the UK is of course doing a great deal to combat.

Photo of Fabian Hamilton Fabian Hamilton Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (Defence)

When challenged about his recent “clear the dead bodies” remarks, the Foreign Secretary said that his only critics were those with

“no knowledge or understanding of Libya.”

Can he therefore respond to Guma el-Gamaty, the head of the Libyan Taghyeer party, who said:

“Libyans fought and died fighting Islamic State in Sirte…Many remain where they fell…It is insensitive to talk about those bodies as if they are some obstacle to British businessmen enjoying beer and sunbathing. The very least he should do is apologise to the families of the young men who died”?

Will the Foreign Secretary now directly apologise to those families today?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

By far the best thing this Government and this House can do is to get behind the plan this Government are promoting to bring security to Libya and to Sirte, which would do honour to all those who fell fighting Daesh in Libya. That is the way forward for that country, and that is the course we are promoting.

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills

Does my right hon. Friend agree that while the only way forward on Libya is for the international community to support Ghassan Salamé’s UN road map, the UK still has a unique part to play?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

That is a very good point, because one of the difficulties in Libya over the last few months and years has been the tendency of actors across the international landscape to try to come up with their own plans, which has allowed the various parties in Libya to play one part of the international community off against another, and not to do the deals that are necessary. What needs to happen now is for the various parties in Libya to put aside their selfish interests and co-operate in the name of the country as a whole.

Photo of Stephen Gethins Stephen Gethins Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Affairs and Europe)

I am sure that the Foreign Secretary agrees that the UK has a special responsibility to Libya, given the 2011 military action and the aftermath. How does he think his comments have impacted on the relationship?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we have very good relations with all parties in Libya. One of our objectives, which remains undimmed, is to bring those parties together so as to form a unified Government of Libya.

Photo of Stephen Gethins Stephen Gethins Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Affairs and Europe)

The Foreign Secretary is certainly right to say that he has managed to bring people together in Libya. Quite remarkably, he has been criticised across the political divide, as well as by a former British ambassador, and he was described as having “dishonoured” the sacrifice of those who fought and died in Sirte. Will he now retract his comments, and will he tell us whether he is the best placed to take forward a relationship with Libya?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I do not believe that political point scoring of this kind or trivialising the reality—[Interruption.] Ignoring the reality of the security situation in Sirte does no favours to the people of Libya. They want to see the international community concerted and co-ordinated around the UN plan so that their children can have the opportunities that are currently being denied to their own generation in Libya. That is what we are working to achieve.