Australia — Statement on situation in Libya / Afghanistan

TOPICS: NATO Defence Min­is­ters meet­ing in Brus­sels, the sit­u­a­tion in Libya and ongo­ing oper­a­tions in Afghanistan.

FRAN KELLY: As we men­tioned, NATO Defence Min­is­ters are meet­ing in Brus­sels to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion in Libya and the ongo­ing oper­a­tion in Afghanistan. Our Defence Min­is­ter, Stephen Smith, says there is no dis­pute with Kevin Rudd, and that Australia’s posi­tion on Libya is clear that the UN Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil should con­sid­er a no-fly zone over Libya. I spoke with the Defence Min­is­ter a short time ago.

STEPHEN SMITH: Good morn­ing Fran, thanks very much.

FRAN KELLY: Stephen Smith, are the Prime Min­is­ter and the For­eign Min­is­ter at odds over the push for a no-fly zone over Libya?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, I cer­tain­ly don’t believe so. I’ve seen sug­ges­tions overnight and this morn­ing, but I’ve looked care­ful­ly at what both the Prime Min­is­ter and the For­eign Min­is­ter have said in the last week or so, and indeed what I’ve said, and the Aus­tralian posi­tion is, in my view, very clear.

The Prime Min­is­ter, the For­eign Min­is­ter and I have all said that we believe the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil should con­sid­er a no-fly zone over Libya. We believe that hav­ing a Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion, the weight of inter­na­tion­al law is very impor­tant, and that should be the start­ing point. We’ve also sup­port­ed prepara­to­ry mea­sures by NATO, in par­tic­u­lar, to put itself in the posi­tion of being able to effect a no-fly zone if there is the author­i­ty of inter­na­tion­al laws.

FRAN KELLY: What the Prime Min­is­ter said overnight, when she was asked specif­i­cal­ly about that, was, she said, I think it’s appro­pri­ate for the UN Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil to con­sid­er a full range of options. I don’t believe that range of options should be nar­rowed. In oth­er words, she did­n’t re-state Australia’s sup­port for a no-fly zone specif­i­cal­ly.

STEPHEN SMITH: No, the phrase that you’ve quot­ed includes a no-fly zone. That’s par­tic­u­lar­ly the case, giv­en last week when the par­lia­ment sat, she stood up on one of those occa­sions and said that Aus­tralia was call­ing on the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil to con­sid­er a no-fly zone, that we had to keep the pres­sure on.

So, that phrase obvi­ous­ly includes a no-fly zone. It obvi­ous­ly includes all of the things which the For­eign Min­is­ter and I have been say­ing on our respec­tive over­seas trip. But because we’re deal­ing with, poten­tial­ly and effec­tive­ly, a mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion into anoth­er coun­try, the start­ing point for Aus­tralia has to be prop­er Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil autho­ri­sa­tions.

The gen­er­al form of words which the Prime Min­is­ter has used includes a no-fly zone. And I may be miss­ing some­thing, but I’m focus­ing on the sub­stance of the posi­tion here, not any angle that might be of inter­est to jour­nal­ists overnight.

FRAN KELLY: All right. Well, you’ve been in meet­ings with the US Defense Sec­re­tary, Robert Gates in Brus­sels. What reser­va­tions does the US have about a no-fly zone over Libya?

STEPHEN SMITH: What NATO decid­ed today was that NATO wants to put itself in a posi­tion where if it had to, or want­ed to, it would be able to pro­vide human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance using NATO assets. That it could, if it want­ed to, be able to enforce the arms embar­go using NATO assets. That it was impor­tant for NATO to do the rel­e­vant mil­i­tary plan­ning and con­tin­gency and scop­ing study for a no-fly zone over Libya. But before it would embark upon that process, it need­ed to have the appro­pri­ate inter­na­tion­al law autho­ri­sa­tion through the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil.

But also, impor­tant­ly, would want to have region­al sup­port. In oth­er words, if NATO was going to act on behalf of a coun­try in its region, it would want appro­pri­ate region­al sup­port, and that’s a ref­er­ence to the Arab League, to the African Union, and we’ve also seen in recent times expres­sions of sup­port for a no-fly zone from the Gulf Coop­er­a­tion Coun­cil and from the Orga­ni­za­tion of Islam­ic Con­fer­ence.

So that was, essen­tial­ly, the sub­stance of the NATO res­o­lu­tion today.

FRAN KELLY: But Min­is­ter, I mean, clear­ly, what we’re hear­ing this morn­ing, and I’m sure you’ve heard the reports too, is that peo­ple in Libya are under bom­bard­ment. They think this is all talk and no action. It could be over for them by the week­end. So how quick­ly could we see UN autho­ri­sa­tion, and do you con­cede it’s urgent?

STEPHEN SMITH: In our view, it’s urgent, and we’ve been say­ing that for some time. There’s no point shy­ing away from the fact that the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil itself is always sub­ject to a veto, and whether it’s Rus­sia or whether it’s Chi­na, we know from the his­tor­i­cal start­ing points that inter­ven­tion into what they will describe as the inter­nal affairs of a nation state is not some­thing that they deal with or pro­ceed with light­ly.

FRAN KELLY: Is sup­port from the Arab League key to that then, key to influ­enc­ing those coun­tries?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, there’s always a prospect of veto, and so, the more region­al sup­port there is from Arab nations, from African nations, from Mus­lim nations, then the more prospect and chance there is of a Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion autho­ris­ing an inter­ven­tion.

FRAN KELLY: Just turn­ing to the meet­ings about Afghanistan over — tomor­row, coali­tion forces have had some suc­cess in recent months, but it is com­ing up towards spring and what’s nor­mal­ly called the spring offen­sive is an even more dead­ly time in this con­flict.

Aus­tralia has had an increas­ing num­ber of casu­al­ties in Afghanistan in the past year. There’s — is the tem­po of that kind of dan­ger­ous oper­a­tion about to increase?

STEPHEN SMITH: We are, in a sense, steel­ing our­selves for the return to the fight­ing sea­son which occurs when the win­ter recedes and spring comes. So, April, May, June is the tra­di­tion­al start of the fight­ing sea­son.

So, we are steel­ing our­selves for a dif­fi­cult year, a dif­fi­cult fight­ing sea­son. Hav­ing said that, we have made, we think, progress in Uruz­gan and in Afghanistan gen­er­al­ly in terms of bet­ter secu­ri­ty con­trol.

FRAN KELLY: So, does that progress mean we will see the han­dover to Afghan secu­ri­ty forces?

STEPHEN SMITH: We remain con­fi­dent that, in Uruz­gan Province, we can hand over lead respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty mat­ters some time between 2012 and 2014 over the next one, two, four years.

The meet­ing tomor­row will all be about tran­si­tion, where the first tranche, if you like, of provinces or dis­tricts will fall for con­sid­er­a­tion, and I expect that’ll be announced by Pres­i­dent Karzai lat­er this month.

We’re not argu­ing, or sug­gest­ing or believ­ing that Uruz­gan Province is in the first tranche. We think there’s 12 or 18 months to go before we get to that stage, but we are mak­ing progress.

FRAN KELLY: Stephen Smith, thank you very much for join­ing us on Break­fast.

STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks Fran, thanks very much.

FRAN KELLY: Defence Min­is­ter Stephen Smith join­ing us there from Brus­sels.

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Aus­tralia

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →