SPIEGEL Interview with German Foreign Minister 'Gadhafi Must Go - There's No Question'
Part 2: 'A No-Fly Zone Is Not a Traffic Regulation'
SPIEGEL: For the time being, we are only talking about a no-fly zone. Nobody wants to send ground troops to Libya, after all.
Westerwelle: The UN resolution authorized air strikes. And a no-fly zone is not a traffic regulation but a military intervention, because it involves, for example, destroying air defense positions. When it comes to military operations, I see myself as part of a tradition of restraint. The most important thing now is to protect people and provide humanitarian aid. We have to give the rebels an opportunity to live in safety. Gadhafi must go, there's no question about that. And I wish that my concerns with regard to the military mission were unfounded.
SPIEGEL: How do you intend to achieve this goal of toppling Gadhafi? The Libyan leader just laughs at sanctions.
Westerwelle: The options relating to sanctions have not yet been exhausted. Sanctions can and must be intensified even more. Indeed, we were the first to propose such initiatives. I remember very well that there were also reservations among a number of allies in the beginning. But an incredible amount has been achieved in the meantime: The International Criminal Court is investigating the dictator, there is a travel ban on him and his clan, there is an arms embargo and cash flows have been stopped. Everything must be done to prevent Gadhafi from acquiring fresh sources of revenue to hire new mercenary forces -- including no cash flows from additional sales of oil.
SPIEGEL: You have tried to place Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) on the blacklist. This has not yet succeeded in the EU, primarily due to resistance from Italy.
Westerwelle: Resolution 1973 lists the NOC. This means a freezing of bank accounts, which now quickly needs to be implemented. We are specifically targeting the oil industry with these measures.
SPIEGEL: But is the sanctions policy credible? Saif al-Islam, one of Gadhafi's sons, recently cynically said: You will see soon enough that the West will be standing in line for our oil and gas; we know this game. And his father has pledged large deliveries to the Russians and the Chinese, apparently convinced that he can split the international community.
Westerwelle: He has not succeeded in doing so. We also have to make it clear to Gadhafi's supporters that the international community cannot simply go back to doing business with the dictator. This is why we have pushed for the International Criminal Court to investigate him.
SPIEGEL: At the same time, Libya's desperate opposition has imploringly asked the international community for help. If the West does nothing, couldn't it actually have the opposite effect? The rebels would say: You congratulate us when we call for freedom and rebel against the dictator but, when push comes to shove, you leave us in the lurch.
Westerwelle: It is understandable that the rebels have asked for support. But why is it the West that is primarily responsible and not the countries of the region, above all the Arab League? Incidentally, we Germans have already had discussions with the Libyan opposition.
SPIEGEL: What was your impression?
Westerwelle: We assured them of our support, but we also asked them if they were looking to introduce a clan-based society or a democratic society with free and fair elections. These are justified questions.
SPIEGEL: Do you really think it's surprising that, given such a repressive system, there is no flawless democrat who has risen up to lead the opposition?
Westerwelle: You are right, that is understandable. And yet as democrats, we also support democratic development. I have great respect for what is happening in Libya, and the risks that people in the Libyan rebellion are taking, and I share the people's concerns. By the way, I also empathize with people struggling for their freedom in Yemen, Bahrain, Iran, the Ivory Coast and many other countries that are not currently the focus of attention.
SPIEGEL: Don't you have the impression that all of the very promising democratic movements throughout the Middle East have come to a standstill, and the Arab spring could now become frozen?
Westerwelle: What began 10 weeks ago with the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia is an amazing thing with more opportunities than risks. Three weeks ago, I stood on Tahrir Square in Cairo. It was an impressive, moving experience when the people rejoiced and shouted "freedom" and, time and again, celebrated German-Egyptian friendship. Tahrir Square has now become a totally different place for the people, just as the significance of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate for us Germans changed in 1990, when it became a symbol of freedom.
SPIEGEL: Only last year, however, before Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was toppled, you called him a "man of enormous experience and great wisdom." Was the West too gullible with regard to Arab dictators?
Westerwelle: At the time, this concerned the issue of whether to resume the Middle East peace talks. We were thankful for many years that the Egyptian government played a constructive role with Israel. That is what my assessment was referring to. I trust that this constructive role will be pursued under a new democratic government.
SPIEGEL: This hope is not shared by many in Israel.
Westerwelle: The Israelis are extremely concerned, that is true. I try to tell my political contacts in Israel that this is precisely the right time to launch a new peace initiative. In our opinion, there is only one convincing way to achieve this, and that is the two-state solution. As a result, we are not just calling on the Palestinian side to refrain from violence against Israel. With our vote in the UN Security Council, we have also made it clear that we reject the Israeli government's decision to resume building settlements.
SPIEGEL: You have called Egypt an important partner in the Middle East peace process. The same holds true for Saudi Arabia. Would you also say this after armored vehicles from Saudi Arabia rolled into the small neighboring kingdom of Bahrain to help put down the popular rebellion there?
Westerwelle: In Bahrain there is a Shiite majority that is ruled by a Sunni minority. This is a conflict that can only be solved through a national dialogue, and not by foreign countries.
SPIEGEL: The uproar in the West over the Saudis' actions was very quiet, and no clear criticism could be heard from you, either, let alone indignation. Saudi Arabia is being treated with kid gloves because it is simply too important. Aren't we still applying a double standard?
Westerwelle: I have made clear remarks about Bahrain in both government statements this week. And during my first official visit to Saudi Arabia, I did not mince my words on the issue of freedom of religion and freedom of expression. I can assure you that this did not lead to a deterioration in our relationship.
SPIEGEL: You have compared the events in the Middle East with the collapse of communism in 1989. When we look at Libya, Bahrain or Yemen, however, it looks as if it could end like the Prague Spring in 1968, when the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invaded Czechoslovakia to stop the country's liberalization.
Westerwelle: You are unfortunately correct: It is not yet clear how this chapter in history will end. In 1989, there was not only the peaceful revolution in Leipzig (eds. note: the center of pro-democracy protests in communist East Germany), but also violence on Tiananmen Square in Beijing. I have never said that it is already clear that this story will have a happy ending. But I see these developments in the Arab world as a great opportunity that no one could have imagined just a short while ago. Furthermore, the development of freedom in Central Europe did not occur uniformly or without any setbacks.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you for this interview.
Interview conducted by Erich Follath, Georg Mascolo and Ralf Neukirch.
- Part 1: 'Gadhafi Must Go - There's No Question'
- Part 2: 'A No-Fly Zone Is Not a Traffic Regulation'