x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Resolve needed as air forces protect Libyans

The Arab world must show resolve and speak in unified voice in support of the no-fly zone imposed in Libya.

For the residents of Benghazi, who were increasingly under the threat of bombardment from Col Muammar Qaddafi's forces, the UN resolution to impose a no-fly zone in Libya could not have been more timely. But in the days since its implementation, Russia, China, and even the Arab League have condemned the air-strikes as too severe. After initially voicing his concerns, the Arab League's secretary general, Amr Moussa, reaffirmed his commitment to the enforcement of the UN resolution yesterday.

"The Arab League decisions have been announced and we are committed to them," Mr Moussa told journalists in Cairo yesterday. "We respect the Security Council resolution and have no contradiction with this resolution, especially since it stated that there be no invasion or occupation of Libyan lands."

This is a critical time for resolve. The Arab countries, led by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), were the first to call for the imposition of a no-fly zone in Libya. They were rightly lauded for their resolve and unity then. It is vital that this is maintained.

Reassuringly for the civilians in Benghazi, GCC members involved in the coalition against Col Qaddafi's forces confirmed yesterday that they believed the current operation remained within the bounds of the UN resolution. "What is happening now is not intervention, it is for the protection of the Libyan people and civilians from the waterfalls of blood," Abdul Rahman bin Hamad al Attiyah, the secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council said in Abu Dhabi. "These operations are to stop the bloodshed occurring in Libya."

More than ever, the Arab world needs to speak in a unified voice. Conflicting statements, and any subsequent hesitation with the mission, can only serve Col Qaddafi's regime.

Of course, military action in Libya was a last resort; Col Qaddafi's opponents were victims of serious atrocities and faced potential annihilation. But it must be remembered that Tripoli and other pro-Qaddafi strongholds contain a large number of civilians who deserve the same protection as those among the opposition.

In a speech on Sunday, Col Qaddafi again invoked an Islamic war against western "crusaders" in his effort to regain Arab support. Once again, he has misjudged the mood on the Arab street. Rarely has an attack in the region by an international coalition received such backing from Arab regimes and, just as importantly, from their people.

It is vital that this conviction remains focused in the current campaign to save civilian lives in Benghazi and the rest of Libya.