Discussions between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia (the Group of Eight, or G8) will try to agree on what action should be taken in Libya during talks in Paris on Monday and Tuesday. The hope is that a G8 agreement to impose a no-fly zone would speed up a UN Security Council decision on whether or not to enforce one.
As Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi continues to battle Libyan rebels from the sky, pressure from the international community is increasing. Of the Western powers, France and Britain are the most outspoken in their support for imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, spearheading discussions to prevent further air attacks on rebels. On Saturday, the Arab League called on the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone and recognized the rebel movement as that country’s legitimate government – two extraordinary statements against one of its own member states.
Protesters in Benghazi, Libya call for foreign powers to impose a no-fly zone.
Still, the U.S., Germany, Italy, Russia, and China have expressed their reservations. In response to the Arab League’s endorsement Saturday, the White House issued a statement, saying: “The United States will continue to advance our efforts to pressure Gaddafi, to support the Libyan opposition, and to prepare for all contingencies, in close coordination with our international partners.” It refrained from endorsing the no-fly zone.
For weeks, the world’s Western powers have been threatening to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to stop Qaddafi’s air attacks against his own people. While their uncertainty on the issue is understandable – a no-fly zone is no easy task and international support, especially from the Arab world, would legitimize any Western mission – thousands are expected to have been killed after nearly one month of fighting. With the Arab League’s endorsement, it’s time for world powers, and specifically the United States, to get off the fence.