Monday

24th Feb 2020

Sarkozy warns Arab rulers about Libya precedent

  • Sarkozy (c) in Brussels on Thursday. The hawkish rhetoric comes ahead of French presidential elections next year (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has warned all Arab rulers that they risk Libya-type intervention if they cross a certain line of violence against their own people.

The president told press at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday (24 March) that UN Security Council resolution 1973 authorising air strikes on Libya has created a legal and political precedent on the "responsibility to protect."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Referring to deadly violence in Syria, he explained: "Every ruler should understand, and especially every Arab ruler should understand that the reaction of the international community and of Europe will from this moment on each time be the same: we will be on the side of peaceful protesters who must not be repressed with violence."

Sarkozy indicated that he is ready to tolerate a certain level of violence, but that any country which orders its army to open fire on crowds will cross a red line.

"In any democracy there can be demonstrations which can turn violent. But no democracy can accept that the army shoots live ammunition at protesters. This is the position of France and it does not change no matter what the country concerned."

He drew a difference between Egypt, Tunisia and even Yemen, where dozens have been killed but where the armed forces have begun to defect, versus Libya, where Colonel Gaddafi's tanks and planes have waged open war on rebels.

He suggested that the Ivory Coast, where President Laurent Gbago's forces recently fired a heavy artillery shell into a market square, will be next in line for a UN vote on intervention.

Sarkozy noted the political sensitivity of Western military action in the Arab world.

He said that there is a new post-UNSC 1973 model of "world governance. But he added that it can only work if Libya coalition powers "precisely ... rigorously ... scrupulously" stick to the UN mandate to protect civilians instead of playing God on who should take power after Gaddafi.

Recalling the "extremely moving" scenes of Libyan rebels in Benghazi celebrating the arrival of French warplanes and the "extreme importance" of the United Arab Emirates' and Qatari involvement in the coalition, he called Libya a "historic opportunity" for "reconciliation between the two worlds."

"What's at play here is Europe as a political force, with a military means serving its political ambitions, and its relations with the Arab world," the French leader went on. "It's a moment of extreme importance for the political future of Europe and for the future of relations between Europe and the Arab people."

The hawkish speech comes amid criticism of EU "double standards" on tolerating violence in strategically important countries such as Bahrain, Syria and Yemen. Palestinian diplomats have also pointed out the EU did nothing when Israeli jets bombed civilians in Gaza in 2009.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad earlier on Thursday put forward a package of political reforms designed to soothe tensions and pulled back troops from the hotspot town of Daraa near the Jordanian border.

More protests are expected after prayers on Friday however, with one Arab commentator describing the al-Assad reforms as "essentially transforming Ba'athist Syria into [pre-revolutionary] NDP Egypt."

EU set for new Libya naval mission

Foreign ministers reached a political agreement to create a new EU naval force to replace Operation Sophia. It aims to enforce an UN arms embargo on Libya and operate in area where migrants do not take boats.

Luxembourg takes EU lead on Palestine recognition

Luxembourg has stepped up efforts to coordinate an EU reaction to the risk Israel will annex Palestinian territories - but European recognition of Palestine remains a dim prospect.

Commission backtracks after Western Sahara 'mistake'

Just hours of publication, the EU Commission removed from the European Parliament's website a response by one of its own commissioners on the Western Sahara, a disputed territory annexed by Morocco.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel's party suffers worst ever result in Hamburg
  2. 'No need to panic' on coronavirus in Italy, EU says
  3. Erdogan says he will meet Macron, Merkel on Syria
  4. Bulgarian PM investigated over 'money laundering'
  5. Greenpeace breaks into French nuclear plant
  6. Germany increases police presence after shootings
  7. NGO: US and EU 'watering-down' tax reform prior to G20
  8. Iran: parliamentary elections, conservatives likely to win

Opinion

Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values

As someone who has been personally targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Druze, I still believe that peace is possible. But Donald Trump's 'plan' will be a gift to Netanyahu's campaign.

China spy suspect worked for EU for 30 years

The former EU ambassador suspected by German prosecutors of spying for China was Gerhard Sabathil, according to EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. EU speaks out against Israeli settler spike
  2. Polish rule of law crisis at point of no return
  3. Africa visit and EU parliament missions This WEEK
  4. No breakthrough at EU budget summit
  5. EU leaders struggling to break budget deadlock
  6. German ex-commissioner Oettinger lands Orban job
  7. How big is Germany's far-right problem?
  8. Plastic and carbon proposals to help plug Brexit budget gap

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us