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AU Concerned With One-Sided Interpretation of Libya Resolution

Analysis by Haider Rizvi

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 15 2011 (IPS) - Like Russia, China, India and Brazil, the African nations seem to be getting increasingly wary of the consequences of the Western powers’ military strikes in Libya – the oil rich North African country currently embroiled in violent political upheaval.

“[We are] deeply concerned at the dangerous precedent being set by one-sided interpretations of the resolutions on Libya,” an African Union (AU) representative told the U.N. Security Council Wednesday.

He was referring to U.N. resolutions 1970 and 1973 that Western powers have used to justify military actions against the Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi for the past three months – since the opposition in that country began mass protests against Gaddafi’s government.

“We cannot simply be spectators to calamities that befall us,” Hamady Ould Hamady, Mauritania’s minister of foreign affairs said on behalf of the 53-member AU.

Hamady held that Africa’s role in addressing the Libyan situation was required by the U.N. Charter, which, he implied, is largely being ignored by the major powers involved in the Libyan conflict.

It is a matter of “surprise and disappointment” for the AU’s position on Libya to be “marginalised” Hamady told the 15-member Council, whose decision-making process is largely determined by the will of the five veto-wielding members – namely, the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China.

Since NATO started bombing the Libyan government’s compounds in support of the opposition, Russia, China, India, Brazil and, most recently, South Africa, have raised objections and called for NATO to halt its actions.

Russia, China, and many others are against any Security Council attempts to punish or condemn Syria, as well – which, like Libya is going through an acute political crisis, with the opposition enjoying support of Western governments and the international media.

Britain and France are currently pushing a draft resolution on Syria. But both Russia and China have refused to even take part in the consultations. They hold that any U.N. move against Syria would be interference into that country’s internal affairs.

“This intervention was not something plotted out well in advance, planned for, like the U.S. invasion of Iraq – the opposite is the case,” Abdallah Schleifer, emeritus professor of global affairs at the American University of Cairo told IPS. “[U.S. President Barack] Obama and to a less but similar degree, even [French President Nicolas] Sarkosy was dragged into this intervention rather than plotting it.”

The U.S.-NATO action in Libya may not however continue for much longer, considering the fact that there is growing opposition within the U.S. Congress against the country’s involvement in the conflict.

For example, House Speaker John Boehner – Obama’s top Republican critic – warned Tuesday that the president might be in violation of his executive powers unless he gets lawmakers’ explicit approval for the Libya operation.

Russia says any decision concerning the events in the Middle East and North Africa should be based on the principles of national reconciliation and consent, plus a responsible and strategic approach.

“We believe that diplomacy should be aimed at resolving problems politically, but not by creating conditions for more armed conflicts,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Oslo last week.

Observers say Western attempts to gather support for the proposed new resolution on Syria are failing because the Russians and the Chinese have learnt a hard lesson from the past.

For the U.S. and its allies, a phrase in the existing Libya resolution such as “all necessary means” translates into initiating direct military action, although other countries understand it in a different way, said a diplomat who spoke to IPS on condition of anonymity.

Still, Washington, London and Paris seem willing to continue their military adventure in Libya, and possibly take similar measures in Syria, as well, the diplomat said.

So, what is going to happen?

“I think it’s fairly obvious,” Schleifer told IPS. “The U.S. had come to terms with Gaddafi. [It was] getting access to his oil and had taken Libya off the terrorist state list. Nevertheless, the Russians remained Gaddafi’s main source for arms, and Syria, with close ties to Russia also remained a thorn in the side of U.S. Middle East policy – what there is of it, even if Syria was helpful to the U.S. in the counter-terrorism campaign against Al Qaeda.”

It wasn’t states “that took the leading position on intervention on behalf of the insurgents – it was France and the impact of global TV coverage of the Libyan conflict upon the American public,” Schleifer said.

Yet, Wednesday at U.N. headquarters in New York, Hamady speaking on behalf of the AU, told the Security Council that “the time is over to articulate a solution together to protect civilian populations and democratic transformation of Libya.”

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