NATO will continue its military operations in Libya until the violence against civilians is halted. It has pledged to take all necessary measures, with the utmost operational flexibility. This was the commitment undertaken by the 28 allies at the NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Berlin. The meeting was called to review the military operation in the wake of the meeting of the Contact Group in Doha, where the decision was taken to provide financial help for the National Transition Council (NTC).
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that all necessary measures would be taken to protect civilians, as envisaged by the United Nations mandate.
He explained that three conditions needed to be met: all violence against civilians must end; all of the Gaddafi regime’s military and paramilitary forces must withdraw; and immediate, full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all the people in Libya in need of assistance must be guaranteed.
The 28 allies also undertook to provide all necessary resources and ensure the utmost operational flexibility within their mandate, reported Rasmussen. He said he was confident that member countries would respond to the appeal for more resources and explained that more aircraft capable of attacking ground targets were needed.
The NATO Foreign Ministers welcomed the outcome of the Doha conference, and “strongly endorsed” the Contact Group’s call for Gaddafi to leave power, reads the NATO statement.
Minister Franco Frattini underscored that the ministerial in Berlin “has a very high political value because for the first time it sees NATO and the Arab countries discussing another Arab country”. It demonstrates the “great spirit of collaboration and convergence of views on these goals”.
On the appeal for a greater military commitment, Frattini reiterated the Italian Government’s “reluctance” and added that any decision would be taken by the Council of Ministers, acting jointly. Turning to material help for the rebels, the Minister noted that Italy “rules out any supply of heavy arms”. However, “we are considering the possibility of providing non-lethal military support such as telecommunications instruments, vehicles, and night-vision equipment” to improve their self-defence capability.
The Libyan crisis will also be discussed by the NATO-Russia Council that will close the two-day meeting in Berlin. After discussions in China, Russia and the other “BRICS” emerging nations (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) expressed “strong concern” over the situation in the Middle East, North Africa and Western Africa. They agree on the principle whereby the use of force should be avoided.
An Arab League–African Union–EU summit took place in Cairo at the same time as the NATO meeting. The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, expressed his grave concern over the escalation of the violence and the violations of human rights. He underscored the critical situation in Misrata and once again called for an immediate ceasefire. The Secretary General explained that the international community’s agreed objectives, as emerged from the Cairo meeting, are to prevent any further bloodshed, provide humanitarian assistance and open a political dialogue.