Should the Netherlands recognise Libya’s Transitional Council?

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More and more countries are recognising the National Transitional Council in Benghazi as the only legitimate authority in Libya. The Netherlands rejects this position and believes countries such as France, Germany and the United States have moved too quickly. Who’s right? Three reasons for and three reasons against recognition of the Transitional Council.

Libya’s National Transitional Council

Libya’s National Transitional Council was formed in Benghazi after the last Gaddafi loyalists had been expelled from the city. The council includes lawyers, judges, teachers and imams.

Many countries have already recognised it as “the legitimate representative of the Libyan people”.

These countries include the United States, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Great Britain, Malta, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait, Gambia, Senegal, Qatar and the Maldives.

Three reasons for recognition:

1. It’s a clear international political gesture.
The international community has withdrawn its support for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. After an uncertain start, the rebels have been backed and NATO is even bombing ground targets to help them. However, international decision-making on the issue has been tortuous.

2. The council will ensure that there is no power vacuum after Colonel Gaddafi.
Unlike Tunisia or Egypt, which both had parliaments and governments however weak these were, Libya has no quasi-democratic administrative structures. Colonel Gaddafi claims the country is governed directly by the people, and that even he – as ‘leader of the revolution’ – has no post. The council could stop the country disintegrating into chaos.

3. Recognition would bolster the rebels.
Clear recognition by the international community of the National Transitional Council could prove a crucial final fillip to the morale of the rebels. Since February, the students, workers and other untrained members of the amateur rebel army have been locked in an unequal fight against Gaddafi’s well-trained armed forces.

Three reasons against recognition:

1. The Transitional Council only controls eastern Libya.
The opposition to Colonel Gaddafi is based in the east with Benghazi as its base. It has no power base elsewhere in Libya. Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal says the international community should push for a council which can represent the whole of Libya. He fears a divided Libya after the departure of Colonel Gaddafi.

2. The Transitional Council is a disorganised ragbag.
Then council was set up by prominent figures in Benghazi at the end of February. Former members of the Gaddafi regime have joined it since. Rebel forces are a collection of amateurs and deserters from Gaddafi’s army. Some rebels are reported to be linked to al-Qaeda or criminal groups. Human Rights Watch accuses the rebels of abuses.

3. Recognition is too soon and too risky
The Netherlands is especially critical of European Union countries which have already recognised the Transitional Council. The unified EU position of viewing the council as a partner in talks has been broken by its total recognition by some EU countries. This disunity is mirrored internationally, with the US and Jordan recognising the council, but Chine and Chile not doing so. What happens if Colonel Gaddafi defeats the rebels or, after his departure, the council is not accepted by parts of Libya?