Spain’s defence minister eyes international action in Libya

Friday 12/06/2015

Madrid - An international military intervention could be needed to end unrest in Libya, where the Islamic State (ISIS) is gaining a foothold, Spanish Defence Minis­ter Pedro Morenés said in an inter­view.

“We went to Afghanistan to stop all of that from coming here. We are in Iraq, Mali or Somalia with the same objective. And now we have it nearby. Something may need to be done,” he told the Span­ish daily El Pais when asked if there would be a military interven­tion in Libya. El Pais published the interview June 6th.

“I asked (EU foreign policy chief Federica) Mogherini in Singapore and she said: ‘It seems unbeliev­able that there are still nations that object (to an intervention). Think of Syria. For four years we have watched them massacre each other while the (UN Security Coun­cil) is blocked by vetoes. This is the world we live in’.”

Morenés reiterated Spain’s sup­port for an Italian proposal calling on the US-led coalition, which is fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq, to expand its operations into Libya.

“There is not a coalition to fight against Daesh in Iraq or in Syria, there is a coalition to fight against Daesh full stop,” he said, using an acronym for ISIS.

“If the caliphate extends to Lib­ya, the coalition will have to take action,” he added.

Libya descended into chaos af­ter the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed Muammar Qaddafi, with battle-hardened and heavily armed former rebels carv­ing out their own fiefdoms across the country.

The North African country has two rival parliaments and govern­ments, with Tripoli controlled by Libyan Dawn forces who seized the capital last year, forcing the inter­nationally recognised government to move to Tobruk, in the east of the country. The chaos has turned Libya into a staging post for mi­grant smuggling across the Medi­terranean to Europe and there is mounting alarm over gains made by extremists like ISIS.

The group released a video in April showing masked fighters be­heading dozens of Ethiopian Chris­tians in Libya.

In May, it released another video showing Libyan fighters pledging support for ISIS and staging at­tacks and summary executions in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Western powers including Spain, which this year holds a non-permanent seat on the Security Council, have insisted on a politi­cal solution to the unrest in Libya but have not definitively ruled out another intervention.

Morenés suggested, however, that any action in the country would need to have the approval of the Libyan government.

“Libya is a sovereign state, re­gardless of who is in charge there,” he said when asked if military force could be used in Libya to stop human trafficking.