President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: I want to say a few words regarding the situation in Libya. The Russian Federation hoped from the start that Libya’s internal problems could be settled through peaceful means. We followed developments there as closely as possible and resolutely condemned the actions of the Libyan authorities and Libyan leader with regard to their own people.
Acting on these considerations, Russia supported UN Security Council resolution 1970, and abstained on UN Security Council resolution 1973 in the aim of protecting the Libyan population and preventing the conflict from escalating. Our unwavering position is that all UN Security resolutions must pursue the objectives of bolstering peace and ending civil strife, preventing escalation of conflict and protecting civilians’ lives.
Unfortunately, we see from the developments now unfolding that real military action has begun. This is something that cannot be allowed to happen. I hope that all of the countries currently involved in the operations to enforce the no-fly zone in Libya, and who are using their armed forces, act with the understanding that any steps they take must be in the Libyan people’s interests and in order to prevent further loss of life and Libya’s disintegration as a country.
At the same time, let us not forget what motivated the Security Council resolutions in the first place. These resolutions were passed in response to the Libyan authorities’ actions. This was why we took these decisions. I think these are balanced decisions that were very carefully thought through. We gave our support to the first Security Council resolution and abstained on the second. We made these decisions consciously in the aim of preventing an escalation of violence.
”I hope that the international community’s coordinated efforts will succeed in bringing peace to Libya, and that comprehensive measures will be taken to prevent the conflict from spreading further in Africa and into other countries.“
But subsequent events have shown that any decisions of this kind must be accompanied by consultations and the need to keep in mind that any use of force should be in proportion to events. Still, these operations have damaged civilian sites, and there are as yet unconfirmed reports that innocent people have been killed, and this shows that, sadly, the countries taking part in these military operations have not managed to achieve these goals.
I hope that the international community’s coordinated efforts will succeed in bringing peace to Libya, and that comprehensive measures will be taken to prevent the conflict from spreading further in Africa and into other countries.
Question: Why did Russia not use its power of veto? We do have this right after all, and we could have used it to veto one of the resolutions that you mentioned.
Dmitry Medvedev: Russia did not use its power of veto for the simple reason that I do not consider the resolution in question wrong. Moreover, I think that overall this resolution reflects our understanding of events in Libya too, but not completely. This is why we decided not to use our power of veto. This, you realise, was a qualified decision not to veto the resolution, and the consequences of this decision were obvious. It would be wrong for us to start flapping about now and say that we didn’t know what we were doing. This was a conscious decision on our part. Such were the instructions I gave to the Foreign Ministry, and they were carried out.
Let me say again that everything that is happening in Libya is a result of the Libyan leadership’s absolutely intolerable behaviour and the crimes that they have committed against their own people. Let’s not forget this. Everything else is the consequences of these actions.
Question: What steps could Russia take from here? Are there any meetings planned?
Dmitry Medvedev: I think Russia’s actions are very clear. Russia will not take part in any of the operations to enforce the no-fly zone, and will not send any troops if – and we hope this will not happen – ground operations begin. At this stage, the possibility of ground operations cannot be ruled out.
”I think Russia’s actions are very clear. Russia will not take part in any of the operations to enforce the no-fly zone, and will not send any troops. As for what we can do by way of mediation and peacekeeping efforts, Russia will be happy to put its possibilities to use in this situation if required.“
As for what we can do by way of mediation and peacekeeping efforts, Russia will be happy to put its possibilities to use in this situation if required.
We have good ties in the Arab world. I looked at the statement issued by the League of Arab States and the statements that other responsible political leaders have made. I think that we all must get involved in efforts to end this conflict through negotiations, not let it escalate, and try to bring it to an end. Overall, some of the terms of resolution 1973 follow these same objectives, and this was why Russia chose to abstain in the voting.
Question: How do you think events will develop?
Dmitry Medvedev: Judging by the current developments, I think the situation is not going to be easy. The main problem in my view is that there is no coalition carrying out a coordinated policy. Some countries, some of our partners, are taking action of their own to try to bring order to the situation, but these are not coordinated, jointly organised actions. This is causing damage to various sites, and as I understand it, there is no common plan for how to establish peace and order in Libya. This is a big problem.
The other problem is who to talk with there. Most of the Western countries consider the current Libyan leader, who says he holds no state post, someone they cannot shake hands with, someone they will not have dealings with.
The Russian Federation has not officially severed diplomatic ties, and we could thus act as a mediator in this sense. We still have diplomatic ties with the Libyan leadership, but this does not mean that we do not see what this country’s authorities have done. This is something everyone, both inside and outside the country, should remember.
At the moment various words are being used to describe the events taking place. I think we need to be very careful in our choice of wordings. It is inadmissible to say anything that could lead to a clash of civilisations, talk of ‘crusades’ and so on. This is unacceptable. Otherwise we could see a situation far worse even than what is happening today. We must all keep this in mind.