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France/UK/cooperation - Libya

Published on May 13, 2011
Visit to the United Kingdom – Statements by Gérard Longuet, Minister for Defence and Veterans, at his joint press conference with Liam Fox, British Secretary of State for Defence

Paris, May 9 , 2011

FRANCE/UK/COOPERATION

THE MINISTER – I’d like to say that I was very pleased to meet Liam Fox at the Ministry of Defence, because we work together daily on current issues such as Afghanistan, where British troops are playing a major role, and in Libya, where the Franco-British entente has allowed us to protect those who want freedom.

We share the same vision of NATO reform and, more generally, we’re convinced that globalization presupposes a number of countries taking on responsibilities when it comes to security, and adopting a pragmatic, realistic, multilateral approach.

I can’t take credit for any of it, because my predecessor, Hervé Morin, signed the Lancaster House agreements on 2 November 2010, and like Liam Fox I’m intent on providing concrete results as soon as possible, particularly in view of the limited financial framework and the need for optimal modern equipment. It’s President Sarkozy’s wish and it’s a pleasure to carry it out with a minister with whom I share the same concerns and the same instincts.

LIBYA

Q. – On Libya, what’s the next phase? Sending peacekeeping forces?

THE MINISTER – With UNSCR 1973 we knew that we had to prevent something irreversible [the capture of Benghazi] but that we couldn’t provide a definitive answer to build a stable Libya. In any case, the solution is political and must be an expression of the Libyans themselves, of their desire to build a new regime. The role of the airstrikes is to prevent the irreversible, but the response is up to the Libyans. The defence ministers play a role, but it’s the foreign ministers, in the framework of the Contact Group, who have the responsibility to build a political solution to the Libyan crisis.

Q. – What do you think of the Italian government’s wish to send weapons to the Libyan rebels?

THE MINISTER – I read that the Italians envisage equipping the Benghazi authorities with defensive weapons. I have no other details, and that doesn’t strike me as sufficient for taking a position. It’s not the French government’s wish to equip anyone with weapons.

Q. – Are we at an impasse in Libya today?

THE MINISTER – Liam Fox said something very important just now: respect for the civilian population prohibits us from speeding up operations. In fact it prohibits us from dramatic, rapid solutions. We have time, because justice can be defended in the long term.

Q. – One gets the feeling, even so, that you’ve started a conflict you can’t manage to stop. So wouldn’t the quickest solution be physically to eliminate Colonel Gaddafi, as the Americans did recently with Bin Laden?

THE MINISTER – Two answers. Firstly, we didn’t start the conflict: it was Colonel Gaddafi who started firing on and used air power against the civilian population. We stopped the massacre of the civilian population and prevented a humanitarian tragedy in Benghazi.

The United Nations’ mandate – and this is the second answer – is to protect the civilian population. That mandate doesn’t authorize us to kill the Libyan “Guide”.

Let me add that I have a lot of respect for the American commando’s achievement, but it took them 10 years to intercept Bin Laden. (…)

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