x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Liam Fox praises UAE support for Libyan no-fly zone

Backing of Nato/UN action has enhanced reputation, says UK defence secretary.

British Defence Secretary Liam Fox talks with the media at the Shangi La Hotel, Dubai. Callaghan Walsh / for The National
British Defence Secretary Liam Fox talks with the media at the Shangi La Hotel, Dubai. Callaghan Walsh / for The National

DUBAI // The UAE’s role in support of the Libyan no-fly zone has magnified its standing on the world stage, the British defence secretary Liam Fox said yesterday.

“Economically its achievements are known but through the backing of the no-fly zone it has further enhanced its reputation,” he said in Dubai.Mr Fox also praised the role of the UAE amid the unrest in Bahrain.

He said a political solution to the Libyan crisis was still open but only if Muammar Qaddafi left power.

Mr Fox said they had been pushing a message to the Libyan regime about the need for Col Qaddafi to leave office.

“There is only one person standing in the way of a political solution in Libya and that’s Qaddafi,” he said. “He has no friends internationally. He needs to see sense and leave power.”

Coalition forces led by the US, Britain and France began on March 19 to enforce a UN-backed no-fly zone over much of Libya.

Mr Fox said the coalition could have degraded Col Qaddafi’s military more quickly, but in order to minimise civilian casualties it had not attacked his forces around the town of Misurata.

Despite offers of ceasefires, Col Qaddafi had continued to attack his opponents, Mr Fox said. He said it was clear Col Qaddafi had not changed, despite the efforts of the former British prime minister Tony Blair to bring Libya back into the international community.

During his tour of the region, Mr Fox has held talks with the federal Government on the situations in Egypt and Syria. He has also been to Qatar and plans to visit Bahrain today.

He said Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa, of Bahrain, had taken the right steps for reform in the island kingdom. “We need to get back to the process and both sides need to be willing to give something.”

Mr Fox said countries in the region needed to work towards change, or they would be overtaken by events.

He would not say whether he had asked the UAE military to take part in bombing targets in Libya, but said discussions were under way with Nato about the situation.

nhanif@thenational.ae