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Volume 600: debated on Tuesday 20 October 2015

On 8 October, UN special representative Bernardino León announced details of the political settlement in Libya, urging Libyan parties to agree the deal before 21 October. Yesterday I attended a meeting of international partners hosted in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to discuss robust support for a Government of national accord.

Everyone in this Chamber will welcome the progress towards a new national Government in Libya. However, we have been here before, so will the Minister commit to reviewing our approach to Libya in the event that the timeline for a national Government is breached?

If I may correct my hon. Friend, we have not quite been at this point before. We are on the eve of signing a peace document to get a Government of unity, but we are not there yet. That will happen next week. If it does not happen, the difficulties faced by Libya—including not only the current migration patterns, but, most importantly, ISIL developing a foothold there—will continue.

The Prime Minister used to be so proud of this country’s intervention in Libya. Surely we should be seen as taking a much stronger role in trying to bring all the parties together so that Libya can have some sort of future and its people can live in peace.

I am slightly puzzled by the hon. Gentleman’s question, because we have been at the forefront of engaging with the parties in the very difficult aftermath of Gaddafi’s fall. We offered to assist back in 2012 and 2013. We were invited to leave the country, along with other UN organisations. We have encouraged, through the UN and working with Bernardino León and the Prime Minister’s envoy, Jonathan Powell, the bringing of the parties together. No country could have done more.

Although I would not dare to try to emulate Sir Peter Tapsell, does my hon. Friend recall that originally Libya was made up of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica? Does he not believe that if the worst comes to the worst, it may be necessary, because they are two very different peoples, to divide Libya?

My hon. Friend is correct, although he misses out a third region, namely Fezzan, and it was the Italians who brought the country together. As well as those three regions, there are more than 135 tribes, including 35 main tribes. They have been sat on by a dictator for 40 years, and lifting the lid off that results in society trying to flex its muscles. That is the difficulty and challenge we face.