Romania stalls decision over joining military actions against Libya

FM says Bucharest will coordinate actions with the allies.

President Traian Basescu recently announced that Romania opposes any military solution in Libya, but the country must now decide whether to join allied forces’ air strikes against Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s rule or at least support them on a declarative and logistical level. After a European Council meeting on March 11, Basescu contradicted the French stance and called for efforts to give “humanitarian assistance” and to bring violence in the African country to a halt. The president’s office made no comments on the UN Security Council resolution allowing the use of force against Gaddafi’s rule and the ensuing air strikes by allied forces. No other official comments were made after the air strikes began either other than a Foreign Ministry release, quoted by Mediafax, voicing concern for the about 100 Romanians still in Libya. The release also said Tripoli diplomatic staff had a good morale and that the embassy did not need to be evacuated so far.

On Friday Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi said Romania will act in coordination with UN and NATO member states and will make an internal decision on whether to join the action and how to join it.
“Such an operation can only be conducted at the Mediterranean Sea with NATO support. We (…) will no be absent form this exercise of political coordination of military action. Talks will happen soon, there have already been political-military planning drills within NATO and Romania’s representative attended them,” Baconschi said, quoted by Mediafax.

The head of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Social Democrat Titus Corlatean, told Realitatea TV that Romania cannot make other decisions except those in line with the UN resolution demanding the Gaddafi rule to stop violence on civilians. “Romania cannot take other decisions than join its European allies. From this point of view, Romania can only be supportive of the international democratic community’s action to stop the acts of violence generated by a dictatorial rule against civilian population,” Corlatean said. He added however that the decision Bucharest will make will have to take into consideration the country’s “limited military logistics capabilities.”

The vice president of the Chamber of Deputies’ defence committee, Liberal George Scutaru said Romania should wait for NATO’s decision over the matter, but warned that the country’s resources do not allow a military involvement. “At most, we could offer humanitarian support, taking into consideration the fact that Romania has proven to have the capacity of extracting its own citizens and other foreign nationals from Libya,” Scutaru added. He also said that a decision should be made by the country’s Supreme Defence Council (CSAT) and underlined that the UN resolution only allows for air strikes and no land interventions, and Romania at the moment does not have the equipment and logistics to conduct air raids.

In his turn, Liberal Senator and former Defence Minister Teodor Melescanu told Mediafax that Libya cannot resist the intervention of significant world military powers for long. He did not make any other comments other than a call for patience to see how other countries will respond to the UN mandated military intervention and how much support the action will garner. The National Liberal Party in a press release criticised Romanian authorities’ lack of response to the situation and, deeming the military intervention “perfectly justified,” called for an immediate session of the CSAT.

And former President Ion Iliescu said the intervention in Libya was necessary, given that Gaddafi’s actions are “totally irrational.” In separate comments to Realitatea TV, Iliescu said that if the foreign intervention had happened sooner, this would have significantly lowered the number of casualties in the country. Realitatea TV meanwhile reported that the Romanian state has to recover over USD 64 M in debts from Libya. The state-run companies that have to recover the highest amounts include Romtehnica, Arcom and Tarom, the TV station said.

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