Thursday, 3 March 2011

Libya being shun by most of EU

The situation in Libya has reached a point where the Colonel Qadhafi's regime will no longer be tolerated in any form by the protestors who now make up the majority, but certainly not all, of the Libyan population.

Violence in Tripoli has waxed and waned over the last week. Overall, Qadhafi has tightened his grip on the capital, making public appearances and sending his troops onto the streets. Some estimates suggest that up to 80 per cent of Libya is in anti-government hands.

On 26th February, the UN Security Council issued a statement, demanding an end to the violence. Resolution 1970 called for member States to secure delivery of humanitarian assistance. A committee has been established to monitor the situation. The Resolution also imposed Sanctions comprising of an arms embargo, a travel ban and an asset freeze. The freeze only applies to the Leader and five of his children. The travel ban, however, applies to 16 individuals associated with the regime. The UN has also referred the matter to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Fighting has been ongoing with reports of clashes in the Tripoli suburb of Tajura. Key towns, Zawiya and Misurata, are understood to be surrounded by government forces but remain in rebel control. On 2nd March, it appeared that Brega was re-captured by the regime but has since been lost again with the rebels now in control.

The EU continues to condemn the violence. EU Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, confirmed on 28th February that the EU was adopting the UN sanctions including a wider travel ban affecting a total of 26 people connected to the regime.

France was the first country to confirm that it had sent medical aid to Libya. Two planes went into Benghazi, carrying nurses, doctors, medicines and medical equipment. Italy, on the other hand, has suspended its Friendship Treaty with Libya, reasoning that the government with which it signed the treaty no longer exists as an entity. With the lifting of the treaty, Italian bases could now be used for military aircraft including NATO forces to take off for Libya. Under the terms of agreements, Italy had agreed not to allow its territory to be the base for any attack on Libya.

In applying UN sanctions, the UK has frozen substantial assets held inside its borders by the Qadhafi family. Libyan currency, printed in the UK, believed to be in the region of £900 million, has also been affected by the asset freeze. The UK Foreign Office has suspended its embassy in Libya, leaving a sole consular representative and placing consular affairs in the hands of the Turkish embassy.

On 25th February, the US Embassy in Tripoli was closed. It is understood that US$30 billion worth of Libyan assets in the US were then frozen. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, travelled to a meeting of foreign ministers in Geneva on 28th February. She issued a statement claiming that Administration would assist Libyan rebels in any way possible but officials later clarified that this did not mean supplying arms.

The regime is presenting itself as unharmed and unbowed. There have been promises of a US$400 handout for each family, as well as assurances that civil service wages could increase by up to 150 per cent. These would appear to be last ditch attempts to hold on to control as Libyan diplomats around the world continue to resign.

Regime spokesman Mussa Ibrahim and both Sa'adi Qadhafi and Saif Al-Islam Qadhafi have given interviews to foreign press claiming that problems have been grossly exaggerated. In an interview released by the BBC, Colonel Qadhafi demonstrated his determination to remain in power, claiming that he is loved by the Libyan people and condemning foreign governments for interference in the Jamahiriya.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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