Security Council split over Libya no-fly zone

Filed on March 15, 2011
Security Council split over Libya no-fly zone

The UN Security Council on Monday wrangled over calls from Britain and France for a Libya no-fly zone with Russia insisting “fundamental questions” remain over the proposal.

European and Arab envoys emphasized the need for urgent UN action against Muammar Gaddafi’s offensive on opposition forces which gains new ground every day. Because of the split between the international powers, however, the Security Council will need several days to agree new action, diplomats said.

The Security Council held negotiations on an exclusion zone as the topic also dominated talks between foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations in Paris.

Britain and France are drawing up a draft no-fly zone resolution and their efforts have been boosted by Arab League support. Russia and China are leading opposition while the United States, Germany and others have doubts.

Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said crucial questions over how the zone would be run and who would be responsible have not been answered by the proposal’s supporters.

“As far as we are concerned there are some fundamental questions that need to be answered,” Churkin told reporters as he left the Security Council talks.

“If there is a no-fly zone, who is going to implement the no-fly zone? How (is) the no-fly zone is going to be implemented?” he asked.

“We have not had enough information. To say ‘we need to act quickly,’ ‘as fast as possible’ but not to provide the fundamental answers to those fundamental questions, to us is not really helping. It is just beating the air.”

Churkin added that Russia was “open-minded” about no-fly zones and other proposals to end the violence in Libya.

French ambassador Gerard Araud said a resolution on an exclusion zone was still possible this week.

“There was no total refusal. There were concerns, there were questions, but I think we are moving forward,” Araud told reporters.

“I think the problem for us is the urgency. As you know the Gaddafi forces are moving forward so we would prefer to act as quickly as possible,” he said.

Araud pointed to the UN Security Council which allowed a no-fly zone over Bosnia in the 1990s Balkan war without stating who would run it or how. The French envoy said the council only had to give a “political authorization”.

“I think we are going to work this afternoon and try to have a text as soon as possible,” he added. “We are going to have a blanket authorization. After that the countries that want to be part of the coalition will come.”

Lebanon, the Arab state on the 15-nation council which asked for Monday’s meeting, also stressed the time factor.

“I am relatively pessimistic about the situation on the ground,” said Lebanese envoy Nawaf Salam, who said the Security Council had to react to “an urgent situation.”

The Security Council ordered a travel ban and asset freeze against Gaddafi and members of his regime on February 26. It also ordered an arms embargo against Libya and a crimes against humanity investigation into the Libyan leader’s crackdown on opposition protests.

Germany has also raised doubts about the no-fly zone proposal. “Questions were raised and some of the questions were not answered,” said German envoy Peter Wittig who called for “more pressure” to be put on Gaddafi through political and economic sanctions.

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