23 MAY 2016
Remarks on Libya during Queen's Speech Debate
During the debate on the Queen's speech, at 7.56pm Lord Sheikh spoke about the situation in Libya. His speech is below.
My Lords, the Government were clear in Her Majesty’s gracious Speech that they will continue to play a leading role in world affairs. With this in mind, I will draw the attention of Your Lordships’ House to the continuing situation in Libya.
Since, Muammur Gaddafi was overthrown, Libya has descended into sectarian violence, with rival factions vying for control. We have seen two opposing Governments and Parliaments, both claiming legitimacy, with armed groups committed to both sides. Numerous war crimes and human rights abuses have been committed. In the midst of all this, Daesh has exploited the absence of a central authority to gain an increasing hold. Libya is now by far its biggest stronghold outside Syria and Iraq.
There is widespread agreement that some of the chaos is down to our failure properly to prepare for the situation following Gaddafi’s removal. We should have prepared a plan for what should happen after his rule ended, but that did not happen. 1t is disappointing that we did not appear to have learned the lessons from Iraq. We must remember that the main victims of the chaos are the innocent Libyan people. It has been suggested that the frequency and severity of atrocities committed by Daesh are being underestimated. It has committed atrocities in Sirte and other places. The situation in Sirte is likely to spiral further out of control. It is reported that rival militias are now preparing to liberate the city from Daesh, each with its own agenda. This could create yet more conflict.
Fortunately, last year some progress was made, with the Libyan Political Agreement leading to the formation of the Government of National Accord. Importantly, the Government are unanimously recognised and supported by the United Nations as the sole legitimate authority in Libya. This is a crucial step in order to assert the rule of law and fill the vacuum in which groups like Daesh have thrived. It is also now important that Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj be respected as Head of State by the international community. He must be supported in achieving financial and military control in order to improve stability. We should also welcome the productive talks last week in Vienna. The Government of National Accord have been asking for our help in training and equipping their forces. A number of encouraging announcements were made in this respect.
Ultimately, it should be Libyans who deal with the military situation, but we should help with training and intelligence-gathering, as well as providing specific weapons to enable them to do so. General Khalifa Haftar remains a controversial figure but retains significant military power, particularly in the east of the country. Some believe that the two sides should unite under one military command in order to properly co-ordinate a strategy against Daesh and other terrorist groups in the country. In any case, I believe that General Haftar will have to form part of a political solution to move things forward.
Internally within Libya, there is still a concerning reluctance on the part of the House of Representatives to accept the new Government. The Speaker himself is still hostile and no Government can legitimately operate without majority support from its Parliament. A sustainable solution must therefore be found.
Another major concern is that, if the situation does not improve, we will continue to see mass movements of migrants. Libyans themselves will continue to flee in greater numbers. Libya’s geographical position also means that it serves as a path for many wishing to enter Europe from other parts of Africa. Interpol recently said that up to 800,000 would-be migrants may be in Libya wishing to cross into Europe.
I have spoken many times in your Lordships’ House on the need to undertake bilateral trade with overseas countries. I hope that we can look at potential opportunities to increase trade with Libya in the future. I shall be chairing a conference on trade with Libya in London in July. Last week I met a leading Libyan politician and an academic, with whom I had fruitful discussions.
I conclude by saying that the global community must act in the interests of Libya and the needs of its people. We must help to rebuild its institutions, through which it can get back on its feet. Stability in Libya can assist with stability in the wider region.
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