8th Jul 2020

Nato to enforce no-fly zone on Libya

  • Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Nato will enforce the no-fly zone (Photo: Nato)

Nato has agreed to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya, while the role of a new 'political committee' to include Arab countries is to be determined in the following days. EU leaders have also agreed to adopt new oil and gas sanctions on Gaddafi.

After four days of squabbles over whether or not Nato should take over military command of Operation Odyssey Dawn, the 28 member countries in Brussels on Thursday (24 March) agreed for the alliance to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya, Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced.

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The Danish chief said the no-fly measure is "part of the broad international effort to protect civilians against the attacks by the Gaddafi regime."

The political committee will be like a "Nato minus" in the sense that it will include the nine Nato members in the coalition plus the two Arab countries taking part, an EU diplomat explained.

It is to meet for the first time at foreign minister level in London on Tuesday.

Speaking at an EU summit later the same evening, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said "The coalition is principally a political one, while the command structure will be in the hands of Nato."

Referring to a demand by Italy earlier this week that it should not simply 'hand over the keys' to its airbases in Sicily but also host the operation headquarters, he added: "The Nato machinery will co-ordinate through its headquarters in Naples."

France was originally reluctant to give control to the alliance, saying there must be political co-ordination with the non-Nato Arab members of the coalition and that Arabs do not trust the Nato flag.

Noting on Thursday that the UAE had sent jets as well as Qatar, he underlined the "extreme importance" of Arab participation in the war effort so that Western coalition members cannot be accused of pursuing narrow interests in the oil-rich country. He said the Arab jets were in Crete and will be "in Libyan airspace in the coming days."

Muslim power Turkey had also posed problems for the Nato handover, saying it did not approve of the conduct of the mission and that coalition air strikes had already gone too far.

Speaking in Istanbul on Thursday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said "I wish that those who only see oil, gold mines and underground treasures when they look in [Libya's] direction, would see the region through glasses of conscience from now on."

The foreign ministers of the UK and the US, the two biggest champions of the Nato role, in a conference call with their Turkish counterpart managed to get Ankara on board, however.

The EU summit conclusions on Thursday also agreed new sanctions "to ensure that oil and gas revenues do not reach the Gaddafi regime." The oil embargo is likely to be imposed at UN Security Council level.

The leaders said they would "step up their humanitarian assistance" to Libya and "screen and refocus" their aid programmes for the southern Mediterranean in light of the recent region-wide unrest.

The European Investment Bank is to get another €1 billion in loan capacity for Arab countries "undertaking political reform." But the extra money will be found "without reducing operations in the EU eastern neighbours" - a worry expressed by former Communist member states.

On migrants fleeing the unrest - a hot topic for Italy and Malta - leaders tasked the EU commission with drafting a plan how to "develop the capacities to manage migration and refugee flows" ahead of the June summit. They promised to expand the Warsaw-based EU border control agency Frontex. They also agreed to give more resources to the Hermes mission at work with migrants on Italy's Lampedusa island.

Sarkozy in his post-summit speech said that "all of Europe is today on the same line" on Gaddafi. But he remarked that the Cypriot leader had voiced strong worries, asking EU colleagues: "How will it all end? How will it all end?"

He encouraged members of Gaddafi's regime to defect to the rebels.

But he explicitly ruled out sending ground troops to Libya and he spelled out that the mandate of UN Security Council 1973 authorising the air strikes will be fulfilled when "Gaddafi's forces go back to their barracks and the population is no longer under threat."

The cautious approach stood in contrast to Sarkozy's earlier statements that Gaddafi must "go." It also stood in contrast to the more bullish tone of EU Council head Herman Van Rompuy who said on Thursday: "The political objectives that we set two weeks ago remain unchanged: Gadaffi must go."

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