By Jonathan Isaby
After the three-week Easter recess, Foreign Secretary William Hague took the first opportunity to update the Commons on the action being taken against Libya when the Commons reconvened this afternoon.
Here are the key extracts from his statement:
"Britain has continued to take a leading role in international efforts to protect civilians in Libya and the case for action remains compelling: Qadhafi’s regime persists in attacking its own people, wilfully killing its own civilian population. Our strategy is to intensify the diplomatic, economic and military pressure on Qadhafi’s regime and since the House last met we have made progress on all those fronts.
"On the diplomatic front, I co-chaired the first meeting of the Libya Contact Group in Doha on 13 April. The 21 states and seven international organisations represented demonstrated clear unity with participation from across the Arab world and the African Union in attendance. The Group agreed that Qadhafi’s regime had lost all legitimacy, that the National Transitional Council should be offered further support and that the UN Special Envoy should take forward an inclusive political process. I will attend the next Contact Group meeting in Rome on 5 May.
"At the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Berlin on 14 and 15 April, I joined colleagues in showing our determination to increase the pace of military operations to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973. The 28 NATO Member States and 6 Arab countries that attended, 16 of which out of the 34 are engaged in military action, agreed a common strategy. That is an important milestone in world affairs, a sign of a growing ability to work across traditional regional divisions and a demonstration of the breadth and unity in the international coalition in support of the Libyan people.
"On the economic front, since my statement on 4 April, further Libyan entities have been sanctioned and the regime is now subject to some of the most comprehensive economic sanctions ever agreed by the United Nations.
"On military matters, since NATO assumed full control over all military operations on 31 March, more than 3500 sorties and 1500 strike sorties have been conducted. This action has seriously degraded Qadhafi’s military assets and prevented widespread massacres planned by Qadhafi’s forces: they remain unable to enter Benghazi and it is highly likely that without these efforts Misrata would have fallen, with terrible consequences for that city’s brave inhabitants."
"By his actions it is clear that Qadhafi has no intention of observing the conditions in UNSCR 1973 that I described to the House earlier this month. He has repeatedly ignored the ceasefires that he himself has announced.
"Our military action is defined by the UN Security Council Resolutions. We are also clear that Qadhafi should go, and it is impossible to see a viable or peaceful way forward for Libya until he does so."
"Last week I announced our decision to expand this mission with a small advisory team of British military officers. Their sole purpose is to support the NTC’s efforts better to protect civilians by advising on military organisational structures, communications and logistics. They are not involved in training or arming the opposition’s forces, nor are they executing or providing operational military advice.
"This is fully in line with the UN Resolutions and I reiterate to the House that we will remain wholly in accordance with the UN Resolutions, retaining the moral, legal and international authority that flows from that. We have supplied vital, non-lethal equipment to assist the NTC in protecting civilian lives. So far this consists of telecommunications equipment and body armour."
He also touched on developments elsewhere in the Middle East, notably in Syria:
"We condemn utterly the violence and killings perpetrated by the Syrian security forces against civilians who are expressing their views in peaceful protests. This violent repression must stop. President Assad should order his authorities to show restraint and to respond to the legitimate demands of his people with immediate and genuine reform, not with brutal repression. The Emergency Law should be lifted in practice and the legitimate aspirations of the people met.
"The United Kingdom is working intensively with our international partners to persuade the Syrian authorities to stop the violence and respect basic and universal human rights to freedoms of expression and assembly.
"Syria is now at a fork in the road. Its Government can still choose to bring about the radical reform which alone can provide peace and stability in Syria and for the long term, and we urge it do so. Or it can choose ever more violent repression, which can only bring short term security for the authorities there. If it does so we will work with our European partners and others to take measures, including sanctions, that will have an impact on the regime."