Wednesday, March 23, 2011

SBY orders embassy in Libya closed



President Susilo Bambang Yu-dhoyono has ordered the Indonesian Embassy in Tripoli shuttered and its diplomatic staff to evacuate as Western air strikes continue, according to an official.

“Bapak President asked coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister [Djoko Suyanto] to order the Indonesian Embassy in Libya to immediately close [on Sunday] and evacuate to Tunisia,” presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

In an earlier interview with television station SCTV on the Libya situation, Djoko said that “escalation has continued to such an extent that immediate evacuation is a must”.

However Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene said the embassy would remain open albeit with a skeleton crew.

“Around three or four of our staff members are staying at the Indonesian Embassy to assist our remaining citizens in Libya,” he told the Post.

According to Michael, 33 Indonesians have been evacuated from the embassy, including 16 embassy staff members and 11 citizens who previously seeking refuge, in addition to 837 Indonesians who were previously evacuated to Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria or Indonesia.

Middle East expert and former Indonesian Ambassador to New Zealand Amris Hasan said the government had to evacuate all Indonesians from Libya — with or without their consent.

“The situation in Libya is worse than in Egypt. A forced evacuation... there is no other way. It’s a dangerous situation,” he told the Post.

“Our citizens will be attacked by pro-Qaddafi [forces] if the Indonesian government makes a statement in favor of the UN Security Council resolution [authorizing] attacks against Libya. They will face a similar threat if the Indonesian government is passive and irritates anti-Qaddafi protesters.”

The Indonesian government “urges the international community to protect innocent civilians. All the steps taken must uphold international law and the UN Charter,” Michael said.

“The resolution must also be enforced strictly and thoroughly ... to open ways to protect innocent
civilians.”

University of Indonesia security expert Andi Widjajanto said the resolution could be interpreted flexibly or strictly.

“Strict implementation of the UN resolution means that attacks are only carried out against jet fighters inside a no-fly zone, while flexible implementation means that attacks can be aimed at military facilities, which might miss and harm civilians.” he said.

Amris said Western countries preferred a more flexible interpretation of the resolution through “direct
action”.

“Like it or not”, according to Amris, the world had to offer Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and his family “safe passage” and foster a dialogue so they might leave Libya peacefully for the sake of innocent civilians.

“We are dealing with a man who’s losing his ‘coherence’ and playing a zero-sum game. The number of dead civilians will increase drastically if bombardment continues,” Amris said.

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