20th Jan 2022

Hawkish EU states warn of Bosnia-type scenario in Libya

  • Cameron (l), Merkel (c) and Sarkozy (r) exchange greetings at the EU event on Friday (Photo:

Germany remains "deeply sceptical" about military intervention in Libya after an EU summit which saw France and the UK compare the situation to Europe's failure to stop genocide in Bosnia in the 1990s.

Asked by press after an emergency summit in Brussels on Friday (11 March) if German forces would join a military mission against Colonel Gaddafi, Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "I don't see that happening ... As of now, there is no military intervention on the cards."

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She added: "I have not hidden my deep scepticism on military action and on what such a mission might actually achieve ... It is not a good idea for Nato and the EU to play a prominent role, instead of regional organisations. This is, after all, an Arab area. We of course want to alleviate problems, but more on a political level - sanctions, that's our role."

EU leaders agreed to hold a three-way summit with the Arab League and the African Union in the "coming weeks" to give regional actors a bigger role.

France also promised that it would wait for a UN Security Council mandate before launching any strikes.

But French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British PM David Cameron indicated they will not stand by if Gaddafi forces keep killing civilians, recalling events in the western Balkans in the 1990s when EU inaction led to events such as the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1995.

"Think of Bosnia. Journalists said where is Europe?" Mr Sarkozy recalled. "There are a number of states, including the UK and ourselves, who wonder what happens if attacks on civilians continue. The question that David Cameron and I wondered about was whether we should sit back and watch."

The UK leader said: "Many say we have to learn the lesson of Iraq. But we also have to learn the lesson of Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia." He also referred to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda: "What has happened in other parts of the world when there was talk but no action?"

He added: "We have got to make sure that we have the support of Arab states. But there is a surprising amount of unity for Gaddafi to stop what he's doing and to go."

With Gaddafi forces continuing to score victories against opposition strongholds on Friday, rebel leaders themselves appealed for military strikes.

"We need more than diplomacy. We need a no-fly zone but we need more than that. We need air strikes. I think they know where to bomb if they want to bomb. They know how to intervene. It's urgent," Iman Bugaighis, a spokeswoman for the Provisional Transitional National Council told The Guardian newspaper.

A rally outside the PTNC's headquarters saw people waving French flags.

Germany and France also remained divided on France's decision to unilaterally recognise the PTNC as Libya's new government despite reports that some of its members are ex-Gaddafi henchmen.

Ms Merkel said: "We don't recognise it as the sole interlocutor. It may be one of several." Mr Sarkozy countered: "We cannot say 'You've worked with Gaddafi therefore we won't talk to you.' They are risking their lives. They have shouldered their responsibilities."

For his part, Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi, Colonel Gaddafi's closest ally in the EU in the run-up to the crisis, warned that EU powers have aggravated the situation by putting the Libyan leader's back to the wall.

"The moment Gaddafi was brought in front of the ICC [the international criminal tribunal in The Hague], in his mind it cemented the idea to stay in power," Mr Berlusconi said.

The EU's joint declaration on Libya adopted on Friday said: "In order to protect the civilian population, member states will examine all necessary options, provided that there is a demonstrable need, a clear legal basis and support from the region."

It added: "Colonel Gaddafi must relinquish power immediately. His regime has lost all legitimacy and is no longer an interlocutor for the EU."

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