25 August 2011Foreign Secretary William Hague has said that the priority is to give the National Transitional Council diplomatic support to build a free and democratic future.
Speaking after chairing a meeting of the National Security Council on Libya the Foreign Secretary said:
"We are monitoring the diplomatic, military and humanitarian situation in Libya, as we have been of course throughout this crisis in Libya over the last five or six months. The immediate military situation is that NATO forces have been active again and it’s important to stress that Operation Unified Protector goes on. It is not over.
NATO decided yesterday to continue its operations for as long as it is necessary to protect the civilian population of Libya from the forces that remain loyal to the Qadhafi regime. United Kingdom forces will continue to take part in that. Our resolve is unwavering on this as of course it has been throughout this crisis. And so it’s important to stress that that those operations go on.
The Qadhafi regime is finished. There is no way back for the Qadhafi regime and clearly many of its key members are on the run. But there remain forces active loyal to the Qadhafi regime, concentrated particularly in the South of Tripoli and around the city of Sirte and as long as that remains the case and they remain a threat to the civilian population, then the NATO operations will continue.
So this is not over yet. The regime is finished, but fighting in Libya as everybody can see from their television screens is not over yet.
We remain in very close touch with the National Transitional Council who we recognised several weeks ago as the legitimate governing authority in Libya. Now the priority is to give them very strong diplomatic support, to assist them in building a better future, a free democratic and inclusive future for Libya. At the moment that takes several forms, and this week and next week there will be intense diplomatic activity in order to bring this about.
First of all encouraging other nations to recognise the National Transitional Council as the Government of Libya. I’m pleased that fourteen nations since Monday have agreed to do so. Libya’s immediate neighbours, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt have now done so as well. That is an important development and I strongly welcome the statement this morning of the Secretary General of the Arab League saying that the National Transitional Council can take the seat of Libya at the forthcoming meeting of the Arab League. This is something that we have been active in lobbying for from the Foreign Office so that is certainly a pleasing and welcome development.
We are highly active in seeking the unfreezing of Libyan state assets to assist with the immediate humanitarian situation in Libya. We are supporting the efforts by the United States to unfreeze one and a half billion dollars of assets held in the United States. South Africa has had some difficulty with that in the UN Sanctions Committee ahead of today’s meeting of the African Union. I spoke to my South African counterpart yesterday about this. The Prime Minister has spoken to President Zuma this morning and we welcome their agreement that five hundred million dollars can be released for immediate humanitarian purposes. We would now like to see a further billion dollars released.
There is of course a danger in this situation that in some parts of Libya a serious humanitarian situation could develop and this is part of anticipating and dealing with this problem.
Finally we’re also heavily engaged in preparations for the Paris Conference next week. That will take place a week today on the 1st of September. It will be chaired by the Prime Minister and by President Sarkozy. I’ve been discussing the arrangements for that with the French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé since the two nations will chair it together. We’re both heavily involved in the preparations. This will be an opportunity for the National Transitional Council to set out their plans for that free democratic and inclusive future for Libya and for other nations including nations that have not been involved in the military action in Libya and not been part of the Contact Group to take part and to come together to help the Libyan people build their own better future.
So we have made enormous progress in recent days that that progress continues diplomatically and of course on the ground in Libya. But it is not over yet. It’s important to recognise that. A lot of hard work remains, but of course we’re very pleased with the progress made, with the diplomatic work now under way and we will continue that intensively over the coming days and weeks."