After four hours of intensive deliberations over developments in Libya, the Arab League Council of Foreign Ministers was unable to agree on a resolution to support or oppose the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, aiming to prevent the regime of Muammar Gaddafi from bombarding civilians calling for his ouster.
According to information provided by sources inside the meeting, the majority of the 22 Arab League member states seemed in favour of a no-fly zone, on the basis that the league cannot turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed by Gaddafi against the Libyan people. The six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council were firmly in favour of an immediate no-fly zone.
Syria and Algeria — whose leaders fear a replay in their own countries of the popular uprisings seen elsewhere in the Arab world — opposed the no-fly zone categorically on the basis that it opens the door to foreign intervention and possibly occupation, as happened in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Egypt seemed to be standing in the middle. According to an Egyptian diplomat who spoke to Ahram Online, the imposition of a no-fly zone, as far as Cairo is concerned, would need the authorisation of the UN Security Council, with clear-cut guarantees that it would not lead to the initiation of military action against the Gaddafi regime in the name of humanitarian intervention.
In all likelihood, the same diplomat added, a resolution would be adopted calling on the Libyan regime to put to an end the bombardment of civilians and civilian targets, as well as calling on the UN Security Council to examine the possibility of imposing a limited no-fly zone for humanitarian reasons.
Egypt has declined to take a stand on the current conflict in Libya that started about three weeks ago with mass protests calling for the end of Gaddafi four-decade rule. The Libyan ruler has been using heavy artillery and jet fighters to quells the uprising. As a sign of its neutrality, Cairo consecutively received over the past two days representatives of both Gaddafi and the rebel opposition.
Meanwhile, the Arab League Council of Foreign Ministers failed to adopt any resolution on the recognition of a transitional opposition body, the Libyan National Council. Recognition of the Benghazi-based council will most likely be left to the discretion of individual sovereign states. "For us, for example, the situation is very complicated, because we have long borders with Libya and we still have hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who have not been evacuated from Libya," said the same Egyptian diplomat.
The survival of Gaddafi in the face of the Libyan uprising and his ability to retrieve some of the lands the opposition had announced as "liberated" is attributed by Western and Arab diplomats to his "ruthless" use of force against the Libyan people. The international community, with Arab support, is working to get Gaddafi and his ruling circle to face trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of gross human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity.
Gaddafi is the second Arab ruler in the sights of the ICC. Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir is also wanted by the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity in the Western Sudan region of Darfur.