Libya's Parliament Has Demanded Boris Johnson Apologise For His "Dead Bodies" Comments

    The Libyan House of Representatives said the foreign secretary's comments about businesses moving into Libya amounted to a "violation of national sovereignty".

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    Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

    Libya's parliament has demanded Theresa May apologise on behalf of Boris Johnson after he suggested British companies were ready to invest in the country and "all they have to do is clear the dead bodies away".

    The foreign secretary made the comments, about a company apparently keen to turn one of the country's cities into a "new Dubai", at a fringe event at the Conservative party conference in Manchester on Tuesday evening.

    Now, in a statement issued on its website and translated by BuzzFeed News, the internationally recognised Libyan parliament, based in Tobruk due to the country's ongoing civil war, has said the foreign secretary must apologise.

    The parliament's foreign affairs committee said Johnson's comments pointed to a "violation of national sovereignty" and prejudiced the "dignity of the Libyan citizen".

    There was particular anger at Johnson's decision to connect attempts to reconstruct Libya with corporate interests. The parliamentary committee said "it is a violation of Libyan sovereignty when he talked about investing for British businessmen there".

    His comments threatened to overshadow Theresa May's conference speech, until the prime minister managed to overshadow herself with a disastrous performance caused by an intruder, a coughing fit, and the stage set falling apart.

    Sami Zaptia, editor of the Libya Herald news website, told BuzzFeed News that Johnson had achieved the rare feat of uniting a deeply divided country in condemning his comments.

    "As usual Libyans are united against external enemies because they find it much easier to find unity among themselves to foreign threats rather than internal matters.

    "It was very crass mentioning business in the same sentence as dead bodies," he said. “It was surprise at the crudeness. A sentence amount making money while talking about dead bodies. Irrespective of the political views of the people that are now dead, they are human beings.”

    Zaptia said Johnson had been "pilloried" on Libyan social media channels: "How can the foreign secretary of Britain talk like that? It just reinforces, for those who are not allies of the UK and the West, that the West are just there for business.

    "And you guys expect the guy to become prime minister? Bloody hell."

    Read the statement in full:

    "The Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Committee of the Libyan House of Representatives condemns the statement made by Foreign Minister Boris Johnson last Tuesday about the Libyan city of Sirte, considered unacceptable, and it is a violation of Libyan sovereignty when he talked about investing for British businessmen there.

    "The Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Committee also deplores the irresponsible statement when he said that we will make Sirte a new Dubai on condition that exhumation. The Committee calls upon the prime minister of the British Government to clarify and apologise to the Libyan people for what the Minister of Foreign Affairs had done.

    "Finally, the Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the legal institutions of the Libyan state will not allow the violation of national sovereignty, or prejudice to the dignity of the Libyan citizen, and can not allow exploitation of the situation in Libya now to achieve non-national agendas."

    Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Jim Waterson at jim.waterson@buzzfeed.com.

    Munzer al-Awad is a journalist based in Istanbul.

    Contact Munzer al-Awad at munzer.alawad@buzzfeed.com.

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