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Volume 593: debated on Tuesday 3 March 2015

2. What recent discussions he has had with his counterparts in North Africa on the political and security situation in Libya. (907828)

The political and security situation in Libya remains a concern. We call on all parties to agree to a ceasefire, to engage with the UN dialogue process to find a lasting solution, and to unite to defeat the Islamist extremism which is establishing a foothold in that country. I speak regularly to my Egyptian counterpart. I visited Algeria on 19 and 20 February for discussions which were dominated by the situation in Libya.

I welcome the Egyptian Government’s response to the terrible murder of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya and especially the bridge building shown by President Sisi and religious leaders to the Coptic community. What more can the UK do to support Egypt in its vital role in working for stability in Libya?

My hon. Friend is right that Egypt will play a vital role in the solution in Libya, as all European countries, many of which are very concerned about the situation there, and the United States recognise. Similarly, there are still significant challenges in the human rights situation in Egypt. We were very pleased with the clear statement that President Sisi made on the rights of religious minorities in Egypt. However, as with many other elements of the Egyptian constitution, we now need to see that being delivered on the ground.

Following engagement with ourselves, the Prime Minister appointed the National Security Adviser to engage with the Libyan authorities on reconciliation and finding ways forward for compensation for victims of IRA terrorism that was sponsored by the Gaddafi regime. Will the Foreign Secretary update the House on what progress the National Security Adviser has made in that work?

I regret to have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that the reality on the ground in Libya is that there is no authority to engage with. I am afraid that at the moment I can report no progress on those measures. The urgent need now is to see a Government of national unity created and for the Libyan people to deal collectively with the threat to their society that is posed by the establishment of ISIL cells. Once we have such an authority in place, we will of course re-engage with that agenda.

As the United Kingdom was one of the leading countries that helped the Libyan people overthrow Colonel Gaddafi, do we not have both a political obligation and a political interest to help all the democratic forces in Libya trying to create a new, decent country? While I recognise that the Government do indeed have a priority in that respect, I urge my right hon. Friend to ensure that the British Government do all within their power—perhaps even more than they are doing at the moment—over the crucial weeks and months that will determine whether Libya does indeed become a moderate, secular force or continues to be a hotbed of anarchy and potential terrorism.

I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend that the next few weeks and months will be crucial for Libya. Would that it was as simple as getting behind the democratic authority in Libya—it is not clear that there is a democratic authority behind which we can get. We need a coming together. I do not want to overplay the prospects, but the UN Secretary-General’s special representative, Bernardino León, is making some progress, and the Prime Minister’s envoy, Jonathan Powell, is also working hard. We will continue to engage, because having a stable Government in Libya is vital to our security.

The Tobruk-based Government have agreed to return to the UN talks, but on the condition that they are recognised as the only authority that can take part in those negotiations. What is the view of Her Majesty’s Government? Do they support the Tobruk-based Government?

Our view is that both the Tobruk regime and the Misratans, and indeed the regime in Tripoli, must attend the talks with the UN Secretary-General’s special representative on a no-preconditions basis and on the terms he proposes in order to discuss how they can form a Government of national unity of some kind so that we can begin to rebuild Libya, which could be a prosperous and successful country, and one whose stability is vital to our own interests.