Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The goal is to protect the people of Libya | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Yesterday, leaders and foreign ministers from more than 40 nations – from America and Asia, from Europe and Africa, from the United Nations and the Arab world – came together for a conference in London. There was only one purpose of the gathering and one subject on the agenda: how together we can help the Libyan people in their time of need.

We believe the people of Libya can look forward to a future free from violence, oppression and uncertainty. We see a time when those people will determine and drive their own destiny. But we also realise that while Colonel Gaddafi’s regime continues to brutalise and murder, and since so much destruction has already been wrought, the Libyan people cannot reach that future unaided. That’s why the UK and Qatar have already called on Gaddafi to step down. And that’s also why yesterday the coalition of more than 40 nations discussed and agreed help for the Libyan people across three main fronts.

First, we reaffirmed our commitment to the United Nations Security Council Resolution agreed just under two weeks ago – the Resolution to halt Gaddafi’s murderous advance by force. Since then, the implementation of a no-fly zone over Libya has severely weakened the regime’s grip. Our action saved the city of Benghazi. It averted a massacre. It has saved the lives of countless citizens. But still the work to protect the Libyan people is far from done. Yesterday, reports reached us of fresh attacks on the people of Misurata. Snipers are gunning people down in the street. Food, water and electricity supplies have been cut off. Gaddafi and his regime are continuing to carry out acts of appalling brutality and cruelty, in clear and flagrant breach of the UN Resolution. That is why we must continue to implement those Resolutions for as long as they are necessary to protect the Libyan people from danger.

Second, we agreed on the urgency of humanitarian efforts to get aid into those cities and communities that are suffering. Already aid is getting through. In Benghazi, the ICRC, Islamic Relief and International Medical Corps are back in and working hard. In Ajdabiya, the hospital is reported to be functioning, though it urgently needs more supplies. And even in those cities still under attack, like Misurata, some supplies are reaching the people suffering there. But the whole international community needs to work together to redouble these efforts, get more vital aid through and save more lives. At the conference, Qatar offered to facilitate the sale of Libyan oil where consistent with international law, and to support the people of Libya in using the proceeds to help meet their humanitarian needs

Third, we must help the people of Libya as they build a new future. There is the literal re-building to be done – of the hospitals, homes and shops smashed by Gaddafi and his regime – and on this the United Nations must assist regional organisations to help repair the damage. There is also the political building work to be done – and this, clearly, is much more difficult.

It must be for the Libyan people to choose the future they want. A vision of a better future is sustaining people across Libya right now – from the families fearing for their lives in Misurata to the doctors working to save the wounded in Adjabiya – but today, as things stand, they have little chance to determine their own destiny. That is why it is essential we continue to enforce the UN sanctions on the Gaddafi regime – and it is why the international community must do everything possible to help the Libyan people as they build that new future. To that end, yesterday we established a Libya Contact Group to provide leadership to the international effort – the diplomatic firepower to work alongside our military mission to protect civilians. The State of Qatar has agreed to host the first meeting of the group as soon as possible, continuing to demonstrate the lead role that Arab countries are playing in bringing an end to this crisis.

All this – the conference, the Contact Group, the international resolve – sends a clear message to Colonel Gaddafi: we will not allow you to continue to brutalise your own people. And it sends a message of hope to the Libyan people too: we are on your side. We will continue to protect their lives, defend their rights and support their aspirations – and we will continue to support them on the path that they choose to take.