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Libya/no-fly zone/sanctions/refugees – NATO intervention/Arab reaction

Published on March 10, 2011
Plenary session of the European Parliament – Interview given by Laurent Wauquiez, Minister responsible for European Affairs, to “France 24” (excerpts)

Strasbourg, March 8, 2011

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LIBYA/NO-FLY ZONE/SANCTIONS/REFUGEES

Q. – France and Britain are working on a common plan for a UN resolution on a no-fly zone over Libya. What would this change in concrete terms, and will the measure be adopted?

THE MINISTER – It’s one of the options France is considering.
Our approach on Libya is as follows: our main priority is to stop the bloody crackdown. To that end, we must act simply: we must turn off the tap.

What’s enabling Mr Gaddafi to hold on? An army of mercenaries. How does he finance his army? By means of oil money, or possibly by selling the assets, the stock options built up by the Libyan State.

Q. – And indeed the European Union has, for example, cut off supplies to the Libyan sovereign wealth funds that administer the oil revenues.

THE MINISTER – Exactly: I talked about this to Hillary Clinton. We discussed the issue, saying Mr Gaddafi must be prevented both from cashing in the oil money and also from selling Libyan assets and thus being in a position to recover the money. The European Union has been at the forefront at a time when its diplomacy is often criticized; it’s been the first to act. We really have been in the vanguard.

The second priority is clearly to prevent him from acquiring weapons – hence the embargo, which relates to all weapons: military weapons of course, but also weapons supposedly for maintaining order.

The third priority is the humanitarian imperative. We’ve all been moved by the situation of the refugees and those pictures of floods of refugees at the Egyptian and Tunisian borders, driven by the massacres and fear. So Europe also has a duty to act robustly and swiftly. (…)

NATO INTERVENTION/ARAB REACTION

Q. – For all that, France doesn’t favour the option of full and complete NATO intervention, for fear of alienating the “Arab street” in the long term. But isn’t Arab public opinion sensitive to a possible blood bath against a background of Western powerlessness?

THE MINISTER – At the moment, there are street clashes and extremely strong tensions pointing to a quite inextricable situation in Libya. Do we want to put NATO soldiers in the middle of all that now? Is it the right structure for the situation? Alain Juppé has said he’s not in favour of a NATO intervention.

The danger of a military intervention, in particular, is of its being grossly distorted. Firstly some people will seek to exploit it, saying it’s the return of the crusades. “The West comes to our country and positions soldiers here.” The second thing they’ll say, above all, is that the West is acting this way because there’s oil. And when there’s oil, Western military forces are there; when there isn’t any, they don’t intervene.
Let’s not lay ourselves open to those interpretations. We can see the situation in Libya is developing and heading towards an erosion of Gaddafi’s power. The way we must act is by cutting off the supplies, cutting off what fuels the Gaddafi regime and hence precipitating his downfall. By contrast, a military intervention could prove counterproductive. (…)./.

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