Lord Empey takes Libya fight to Foreign Secretary’s door
Ulster Unionist chairman Lord Empey has said he is hopeful that the Government will take a more positive approach in support of victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA attacks.
Speaking after a meeting with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to discuss compensation for victims of weapons supplied by Colonel Gaddafi’s regime, the peer said he detected a change in London’s attitude.
“The meeting with the Foreign Secretary on Wednesday was the most business-like and positive so far,” Lord Empey said.
“I think the Foreign Office finally get that the Parliamentary Libyan Support Group isn’t going away.
“It has received strong support on the floor of the House of Commons and is intensifying its drive to right this great wrong.”
Lord Empey predicted that Mr Johnson would “take a step forward before the parliamentary recess and review his department’s approach as well as that across Whitehall”.
He continued: “This is a long overdue recognition by government that they cannot go on dodging this issue, that the group will not relent and that it is widely supported in both Houses of Parliament.
“The days of being fobbed off are over and I am hopeful that a breakthrough can occur this year that can set the scene for the future, and perhaps, at long last, bring a glimmer of hope to the long suffering victims of the Gaddafi years of torment.”
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “The Government wants to see a just solution for all victims of Qadhafi-sponsored IRA terrorism. The Libyan Government has a responsibility to deal with the legacy of the Qadhafi regime and the UK Government continues to impress upon them the impact of Qadhafi’s support for the IRA.
“The situation on the ground in Libya makes progress on this issue extremely difficult, which is why the UK is supporting efforts to deliver a more inclusive political settlement in Libya, in order to help create a more stable and effective government with which we can work.”
Lord Empey was speaking as his Private Member’s Bill, which aims to secure compensation from Gaddafi’s estimated £12bn frozen UK assets, is set for its second reading in the Commons.
Libya’s interim government — the Faiez Serraj Presidency Council/Government of National Accord (PC/GNA) — earlier this week rejected the proposals to allow the frozen assets to be used to compensate IRA victims.
It said that the initial decision to freeze Libya’s assets was an international decision taken under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter and obliges all states, including the UK, to observe it.
The assets were frozen as part of sanctions agreed by the Security Council in 2011.
The PC said it would resort to all legal and diplomatic means to oppose this decision and stressed that any move to unfreeze assets would be in contravention of international law.
It branded it a dangerous step and a transgression of Libya’s sovereignty, according to the Libya Herald.
The PC also considered it a precedent that other states may use to access assets of other states in the future.
The Gaddafi regime provided the IRA with weaponry and financial assistance during the Troubles.