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“A flight ban needs to be well thought through” (Interview)

09.03.2011 - Interview

Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle in an interview with the Schwäbische Zeitung on the current situation in Libya. Published on 9 March 2011.

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Is a military operation needed [in Libya]?

A dictator who wages civil war against his own people has reached the end of the line and has to go. That is the international community’s clear stance. We have discussed targeted sanctions. Above all else, we have to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track and end up being a party to a civil war. Anything that goes beyond these targeted sanctions needs a UN mandate coordinated with the Arab League.

That’s what the United Arab Emirates are demanding.Do you expect the UN Security Council to decide sometime in the next few days at least to impose a no-fly zone?

The no-fly zone is an option – but it must be well thought through and it needs to be enforced. The Libyan army has air defence systems, and the first thing is to render them harmless.

But the Libyan people have been suffering under the dictator’s attacks for days.Time is of the essence.

That’s why the EU Foreign Ministers are meeting tomorrow in Brussels. And we will also be discussing the matter at the UN in New York this week. As feeling human beings, though, we have to be careful that we don’t end up achieving exactly the opposite of what we want to achieve.

What do you mean by that?

Well, the dictator’s propaganda machine – and those of other Arab demagogues – are spreading the nonsensical idea that this uprising was steered by the West. We mustn’t do anything that would give grist to their mill. It is crucial that we have the Arab world on our side.

Do you actually have any contact with the Libyan counter-government?

Personally, not yet; but of course the members of the opposition are not unknown. And Europe is sending a fact-finding mission, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be sending a Special Envoy after a discussion with me. I emphatically welcome this.

You stepped forward at a very early stage in this crisis with your own policy – thus stepping out from the Chancellor’s long shadow when it comes to external image.

These are the kind of petty jealousies I can’t be bothered with. Germany speaks with one voice. Foreign policy is conceived – and led – by the Foreign Minister. My experience has widened over the twelve months of hard work behind me. And I’m benefiting from that. And by the way, I’m a liberal Foreign Minister; when in doubt, I will always choose the side of freedom. That’s why it was very important to me to make my voice heard on this.

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Interview by Peter Weissenberg.Reproduced by kind permission of the Schwäbische Zeitung.

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