KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – This country has put “on hold” its relations with Libya until the government is “satisfied that there is a legitimate, proper established government” in the North African nation, says Foreign Affair Minister Sen. Douglas Slater.
Slater told Parliament on Thursday that his government took a “principled position”, as the United Nations decided whether to seat the National Transitional Council (NTC) Libya’s representative at the U.N. General Assembly last week.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines was not one of the 114 U.N. member states — 59 per cent of the body’s membership — that supported the decision to seat the Council, which replaced the 42-year-old Muammar al-Gaddafi after a civil war this year.
Slater further quoted the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States, which says that the state, as a person of international law, should possess a permanent population, a defined territory, government, and capacity to enter into relations with the other states.
“We have been following very closely the situation in Libya and to today I don’t think it is proper to say that there exist a proper government. … I don’t know that there is a minister of foreign Affairs, for example,” Slater told legislators.
He said his government had not “judged that the situation there is quite ready to qualify that council as sufficient to acknowledge.
“Others have, but we are argue form a position that is of principle,” he further said.
Salter also quoted a Southern African Development Community representative, who, according to U.N. documents, this month said, “Notwithstanding the fact that it was in control, the National Transitional Council was not the Government in Libya, interim or otherwise”.
“Mr. Speaker, all of us watch the news, and we read online. I recall when the ‘rebels’ reached Tripoli a virtual mission accomplished was announced. Most people, I think, expected that that was it. But, today, as we speak, we are hearing report that there is fierce resistance still in cities,” Slater further told Parliament.
He said there were still “a lot of uncertainties” in Libya, whose Gaddafi government was partnering with the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves administration to build an international airport here.
“St. Vincent and the Grenadines has and continues to have diplomatic relations with the state of Libya. We never broke them. Mr. Speaker, we are prepared to acknowledge a government when we think that government truly represents the full wishes of all the parties in Libya,” he further said.
Slater further said that the position of CARICOM and the African Union are similar.
“The NTC has not been seated there (at the African Union). That’s there region,” he said, noting “diplomacy is serious business and it’s a very involved issue and I don’t think that we should always rush into decisions.
“… We have taken a very principled position, backed by a significant number of other people – of other countries,” Slater said.
Slater further noted that SVG and Jamaica supported a U.N. vote for deferral of the Libya issues while Belize and St. Lucia opposed it. Antigua and Barbuda, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago abstained from the vote while the rest of CARICOM were absent.
“It is interesting. They were absent. You see, our country — one of the things I am proud about St. Vincent and the Grenadines — we are not afraid to take a position when it is principled,” he said, adding, “ … the real big-ticket item at the United Nations was really the position on Palestine”.
“I didn’t hear the other side make any statement about Palestine,” he said.
Slater further emphasised his authority under the Constitution to conduct the nation’s foreign relations.
“But, I notice that some other people usurping that authority and making pronouncement about accepting NTC. Well, I am still … the Minister of Foreign Affairs … and as far as I know … our government has decided to go a particular path … and when we think it is appropriate, as guided by principles I have outlined, we will do what we find most appropriate to do,” he said.
Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace last week wrote to the NTC noting the “heroic struggle of the Libyan people to throw off the yoke of dictatorship and oppression”.
He said that while the NDP is in opposition the NTC could “be assured of our solidarity”.
“In government, we look forward to working with a democratically elected administration of the Libyan people in the promotion and consolidation of shared values of freedom, democracy, national development and respect for fundamental human rights,” Eustace said.