Morocco World News
United Nations, NY, March 8, 2012
The Prime Minister of Libya, Dr. Abdurrahim El-Keib, had strong words for Russia yesterday while at the United Nations in New York. His rebuke came after an unexpected intervention in the Security Council by the Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, who again raised the issue of NATO civilian casualties during last year’s air campaign and leveled charges at Libya of supporting Syrian rebels.
The remarks came shortly after the Security Council was briefed by the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative to Libya, Ian Martin, and the Libyan Prime Minister who had traveled to New York before the Security Council votes next week to extend the mandate of the UN political mission to the country. Following Martin and El-Keib’s briefings, the Security Council was preparing to move into closed informal consultations, when Russia surprised delegates by requesting to first read a statement.
The Russian ambassador pressed the need for an investigation into civilian casualties as a result of NATO air strikes against the Qaddafi government. Churkin claimed that responsibility for an investigation lied not only with NATO and the Security Council that authorized the NATO intervention to protect civilians, but also with the Libyan government, which would show its commitment to human rights and for national reconciliation.
Continuing his statement, the ambassador then stated that Russia had knowledge of the Libyan government training Syrian rebels. “We have received information that in Libya, with the support of the Libyan authorities, there is a special center for the Syrian revolutionaries and their people are sent to Syria to attack the legal government,” said the Russian envoy. “This activity is undermining stability in the Middle East,” he added.
Churkin went on to highlight Russia’s belief that Al Qaeda is operating in Syria, and wondered aloud, “if the export of revolution, is therefore not turning into the export of terrorism?”
After the US, France and Germany rejected the need for further investigations into civilian deaths by NATO, and China expressed its support for an investigation, Prime Minister El-Keib briefly took the floor. The Libyan leader did not hesitate to express his scorn for the Russian ambassador’s call to investigate NATO civilian casualties, characterizing it as “political propaganda.”
“I hope the reason for raising this matter will not be to impede or prevent the international community from interfering in the situation of other states where their peoples are being massacred and killed at the hands of their rulers,” stated the Prime Minister, in a harsh rebuke of Russia and China’s rejection of several Security Council resolutions that would have condemned the crackdown of the Syrian government on pro-democracy protesters.
The Russian ambassador sought to respond, raising his hand to again take the floor, but the United Kingdom ambassador, whose country is chairing this month’s Security Council meetings, ignored him and adjourned the meeting to move discussions into informal consultations as had been planned.
Russia and China have been among countries that were very critical of NATO’s air campaign during the Libyan conflict, which they consider went beyond the Security Council mandate to protect civilians from Qaddafi forces by siding with the rebels.
A New York Times investigation, published last December, confirmed the deaths of dozens of civilians from NATO air strikes, which NATO had previously been reluctant to acknowledge. A Human Rights Commission special inquiry to review war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law during the Libyan conflict also recently found that there were at least 60 civilian deaths as a result of the air campaign. But as NATO countries point out, the inquiry’s report recognized the efforts that were taken to avoid civilian casualties.
Interestingly, it was reported that when the Security Council resumed its discussion in consultations, no other countries expressed support for a special investigation, though South Africa, India and Pakistan have all previously been critical of the NATO intervention.
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