Canada has recognized the council of Libyan rebels as the “legitimate representative” of the Libyan people, joining an international move to legitimize the nascent organization as a government-in-waiting in Libya.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said he will try to engage in direct talks with the rebels’ National Transition Council of Libya. He announced the move at the kick-off of a day-long debate on extending Canada’s role in the international military mission until the end of September.
His speech was aimed at meeting opposition concerns in a bid to win support for a vote expected on Tuesday night. Mr. Baird also announced Canada will contribute $2-million for humanitarian aid in Libya, with a portion to go to victims of sexual violence – a nod to the NDP’s call for Canada to do more to address the use of rape as a weapon of war.
Opposition parties have called on the government to step up diplomatic and aid efforts, to add to the military role.
The Canadian move to recognize the Libyan rebel council as the “legitimate representative” of the people is a step short of recognizing them as the legitimate government of Libya – just as four European nations have already done.
Many other allies have taken a similar step to Canada to bolster the council’s role, and make them a central player in any talks seeking some kind of settlement to end the talks.
Although Defence Minister Peter MacKay said last week the goals of the mission cannot be met as long as Moammar Gadhafi remains in power. Mr. Baird has since Sunday worked to downplay that line – that the goal of the mission is to change the Libyan regime – in a bid to keep unanimous support in the Commons.
In reality, the mission has moved to heavy airstrikes on Tripoli in a bid to push Colonel Gadhafi out, but Mr. Baird returned to the line used in the early days of the mission: that the goal of the military mission is to protect civilians, but the political goal is to see the Libyan strongman go.
In the Commons Tuesday morning, the Foreign Affairs Minister stressed the goal “is to protect civilians” but that “it goes without saying that at the political level ... most actors believe Col. Gadhafi must go.”