NATO Assumes Responsibility for No-fly Zone

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2011 — NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Anders Fogh Ras­mussen announced today the alliance will assume com­mand and con­trol of coali­tion oper­a­tions enforc­ing the no-fly zone over Libya autho­rized by U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 1973.
“We are tak­ing action as part of the broad inter­na­tion­al effort to pro­tect civil­ians against the attacks by the [Moam­mar] Gad­hafi regime,” Ras­mussen said in a state­ment released today. “We will coop­er­ate with our part­ners in the region and wel­come their con­tri­bu­tions.”

All NATO allies are com­mit­ted to ful­fill their oblig­a­tions under the U.N. res­o­lu­tion, Ras­mussen said. “That is why we have decid­ed to assume respon­si­bil­i­ty for the no-fly zone,” He added.

Speak­ing in Wash­ing­ton this evening after meet­ings at the White House, Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton said a wide range of nations has respond­ed to the Libyan people’s needs. “When the Libyan peo­ple sought to real­ize their demo­c­ra­t­ic aspi­ra­tions, they were met by extreme vio­lence from their own gov­ern­ment,” Clin­ton said. “The Libyan peo­ple appealed to the world to help stop the bru­tal attacks on them, and the world lis­tened.”

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of civil­ians were in dan­ger, the sec­re­tary said, and an inter­na­tion­al coali­tion respond­ed. “After only five days, we have made sig­nif­i­cant progress,” she said. “A mas­sacre in Beng­hazi was pre­vent­ed. Gadhafi’s air force and air defens­es have been ren­dered large­ly inef­fec­tive. And the coali­tion is in con­trol of the skies above Libya.”

Human­i­tar­i­an relief is begin­ning to reach the peo­ple who need it, she said, not­ing, “At least 18 doc­tors and nurs­es from an orga­ni­za­tion fund­ed by the Unit­ed States Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment [are] in Beng­hazi … begin­ning to pro­vide sup­port to the city’s main hos­pi­tal.” Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma stressed that the U.S. military’s actions “would be lim­it­ed in time and scope,” Clin­ton said. “Our mis­sion has been to use America’s unique capa­bil­i­ties to cre­ate the con­di­tions for the no-fly zone, and to assist in meet­ing urgent human­i­tar­i­an needs.”

Today the Unit­ed States and its NATO allies agreed to tran­si­tion com­mand and con­trol for the no-fly zone over Libya to NATO, Clin­ton said.

“This coali­tion includes coun­tries beyond NATO, includ­ing Arab part­ners, and we expect all of them to [pro­vide] impor­tant polit­i­cal guid­ance going for­ward,” she said. Arab lead­er­ship and par­tic­i­pa­tion is the coali­tion is cru­cial, she said.

“The Arab League showed that lead­er­ship with its piv­otal state­ment on Libya,” Clin­ton said. “We are deeply appre­cia­tive of their con­tin­u­ing con­tri­bu­tions, includ­ing air­crafts and pilots from Qatar.”

This evening the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates announced it will join the coali­tion and send planes to help pro­tect Libyan civil­ians and enforce the no-fly zone, the sec­re­tary said.

“We wel­come this impor­tant step,” she added. “It under­scores both the breadth of this inter­na­tion­al coali­tion and the depth of con­cern in the region for the plight of the Libyan peo­ple.”

As NATO assumes com­mand-and-con­trol respon­si­bil­i­ties, the wel­fare of Libyan civil­ians will be of para­mount con­cern, she said.

“Our mil­i­tary will con­tin­ue to pro­vide sup­port to our efforts to make sure that Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions 1970 and 1973 will be enforced,” Clin­ton said. “It is an effort that we believe is very impor­tant, and we’ll look for­ward to coor­di­nat­ing close­ly with all those nations that are par­tic­i­pat­ing.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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