Policy statement by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in the German Bundestag on current developments in Libya (UN Resolution)

18.03.2011 - Speech

-translation of advanced text-

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Members of this House,

Last night the UN Security Council adopted another Resolution on the situation in Libya following an intensive debate. Germany abstained in the vote on the Resolution, as did Brazil, India, China and Russia. Ten states voted for the Resolution, including the United States of America and the three member states of the European Union which currently have seats on the Security Council.

I want to start by saying that this was not a decision we took lightly. It was the result of a difficult process of weighing up the pros and cons. On Wednesday we had an in-depth and very constructive debate in this House and, despite some differences in opinion and some controversies on the domestic front, we have a consensus across party lines: we condemn the crimes committed by Gaddafi. It’s no longer possible to cooperate with this dictator. He has to go. He no longer speaks on behalf of the Libyan people.

I think it’s clear where the Government, indeed all of us stand. After listening to all the speeches on Wednesday I’m firmly convinced that in this particular case I can say on behalf of the entire House: We stand against this dictator. We stand on the side of international law. We stand on the side of people who, wherever they are, are seeking their freedom. We stand on the side of those who have been oppressed, tormented, tortured or murdered because of their commitment to democratic principles. As a democracy we stand for certain values and that’s why we champion freedom and democratic values throughout the world.

The question of military intervention and German participation in it is quite a separate matter. We expressly support those elements of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 through which the sanctions against the Gaddafi regime will be tightened. We Germans put forward and pushed proposals in New York on still more far-reaching economic and financial sanctions. Germany was one of the first countries in Brussels, and indeed in New York, to call for a clear stance against Gaddafi, for an isolation of the Gaddafi system, and we also expressed our support for sanctions against his regime at a very early stage in both Brussels and New York.

The alternative to military action is not inaction, it’s not standing idly by. Rather, the alternative is stepping up the pressure, adopting and tightening sanctions. We need to extend these sanctions so that they have a broad impact on all financial and economic spheres. For we are pursuing a clear aim with these sanctions: we have to prevent the dictator from gaining access to new money, money which he can then use to pay his mercenary troops, to oppress his own people and to continue this terrible war against his own people.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Members of this House, Colonel Gaddafi is waging a war against his own people. He has forfeited every vestige of legitimacy. This dictator has to go. But he must be held accountable for his crimes.

It was therefore right that the UN Security Council has placed great emphasis on the role of the International Criminal Court in this connection.

It is the German Government’s express aim to do everything it can to support the democratic movement in North Africa and the Arab world. We will continue to work in the European Union and the United Nations to provide this movement with political, economical, financial and humanitarian assistance and to help ensure its success.

And there are developments which give us satisfaction: in Morocco, the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, the millions of people in Egypt who struggled for their freedom in Tahrir Square and who were successful. Unfortunately however, there have been terrible setbacks in some countries: in Libya, for example – the theme of this policy statement. Moreover, on a day like today I would like to remind you that people in Bahrain also have a right to demand liberty, as well as the freedom to demonstrate and to express opinions.

I’ve also clearly expressed this view to my interlocutors in the Gulf states. We want to see a national dialogue. We need a national solution. I believe the solution must be found in the country through dialogue and not through outside intervention or foreign troops.

We are concerned about the clampdown on the opposition in Iran. Even though we don’t read something about them in the papers every day at the moment, we all know that the opposition forces in Iran in particular continue to deserve our full attention as well as our solidarity. We shouldn’t forget them on a day like this when, of course, we’re all talking about Libya.

Members of this House, of course I’m also thinking of Yemen, a country which has long been a source of concern to us. As early as last year, we called upon President Salih to seek reconciliation and dialogue. He decided differently. He opted for the force of the military. Time has passed. We can see today how dramatic the situation in Yemen is.

Even if Europe is not focusing on Côte d’Ivoire at the moment, the situation in that country has to be mentioned once more in this connection. Unfortunately that’s the case, even if it breaks the heart of every feeling individual.

There are so many freedom movements being oppressed by despots and dictators. I have to admit there are times when as democrats, as individuals who empathize with others, we feel powerless. No-one can ignore this. Nor can anyone deny it.

We’re not in a position to eliminate oppression throughout the world. However, we are in a position to make our voice heard clearly throughout the world to ensure that the oppressed know they’re not alone and that we stand by their side.

I’m saying this because we must of course consider the consequences of the decision made last night – which is very much on the minds of all of us here in the German Bundestag – for other countries. We have to look at the impact on the whole of North Africa and in the rest of the Arab world.

The Security Council Resolution also contains provisions on the establishment of a no-fly zone, and in particular the deployment of military force beyond that. Having been approved by a majority in the Security Council, this Resolution lends legitimacy to the use of military force – a military operation – by UN member states. The decision on the deployment of military force, on risking the lives of our soldiers, is the most difficult decision politicians face. That applies not only to the Government, but also to every Member of this House. For every Bundeswehr mission abroad has to be mandated by this House. The armed forces operate under a parliamentary mandate, not a government one. I’m therefore certain that every Member of this House asks themselves the same questions and weighs up the same difficult issues. We are all responsible for such matters, ladies and gentlemen, not just the Government.

During the last few days, we’ve talked over and weighed up the potential benefits and the risks of a military operation in Libya in countless discussions in many national and international bodies. There’s no such thing as a “surgical intervention”. Every military operation claims civilian victims. We know that from our own painful experience. When we consider what stance to adopt on the international stage and whether and where we could participate in any operation, we always have to remember that there will be victims, civilian victims. I know we’ve discussed this often enough in the context of the Iraq or Afghanistan missions. I therefore remind you that we always have to take into account the lessons learned from our recent history, also from recent military operations, when we make decisions today.

We respect and understand those partners in the Security Council, in the European Union and in the Arab League who, after weighing up all the arguments, came to a different conclusion than we did. We understand those who, for honourable motives, chose to support international military intervention in Libya. We understand the despair felt by many people in the region in the light of developments in Libya during the last few days. However, in view of the considerable foreign policy and military risks involved, the German Government came to a different conclusion when the matter was examined in the Security Council. That’s why we were unable to agree to this part of the Resolution and thus the Resolution as a whole. We won’t send German troops to take part in a military operation of this kind.

Our partners indicated to me that they understood and respected our decision. Germany’s international commitment is appreciated. It’s not as if Germany weren’t prepared to assume international responsibility. Germany is shouldering responsibility. For example, 7000 German soldiers are involved in Bundeswehr missions abroad. We thank the men and women of the Bundeswehr, who defend our freedom and security throughout the world. Also today, especially today in the light of the terrible news from Afghanistan, I would like to once more express this thanks to the Bundeswehr.

Ladies and gentlemen, we will debate whether we can focus our commitment accordingly. That means that the other issues now on the agenda, for example the question of possible AWACS deployments, have to be discussed within NATO. I want to tell you this in good time and to spell it out clearly to you because I don’t want to create the impression that what many of you will of course continue to think and discuss has no role to play in this policy statement. Together with those Cabinet colleagues concerned with these matters, we – the Federal Defence Minister and the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs – will seek to address them in NATO. These discussions are necessary because no decisions on this will be made today and, with regard to the security situation, no decisions can be made.

However, let me add that in the interest of our partners and also in the interest of people in Libya and in the entire Arab world, I hope our concerns and fears about the consequences of a military operation are unfounded. Our position on the Gaddafi regime is clear, indeed it remains unchanged: the dictator must stop the violence against his own people without delay. He must step down and be held to account for his crimes.

We didn’t take our decision lightly. I know it hasn’t been easy for any of you to make up your minds on this issue. But for us it’s clear: after weighing up the arguments, we decided that no German soldiers will take part in any such operation in Libya. That’s why the German Government abstained in the UN Security Council. I ask for your support for this position and thank you for your attention.

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