EU ministers in surprise Libya visit

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (left) and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault in Tripoli, Libya. Photo: 16 April 2016Image copyright

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Ministers Steinmeier (left) and Ayrault said Europe was ready to train Libya’s security forces

The French and German foreign ministers have made an unannounced visit to Libya, in a show of support for the country’s new UN-backed government.

In Tripoli, Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the EU was ready to train Libya’s security forces.

Since 2014 the country has had two competing administrations.

The new UN-brokered unity government is trying to restore peace in Libya, which has been ravaged by conflict since the fall of Col Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Western nations hope the Government of National Accord (GNA) – led by Prime Minister-designate Fayez Sarraj – will be able to unite the country and combat an affiliate of the so-called Islamic State, which has a foothold in the country.

‘Defending same cause’

“We know how difficult it is to get legal security forces behind this government and so we don’t want to underestimate the challenge of fighting against the cancer of Daesh (Islamic State),” Mr Steinmeier said on Saturday.

“We also know that only the Libyans themselves can tackle this task successfully and I believe the path that has been taken.”

Mr Steinmeier suggested the training of Libya’s security forces and border guards could start outside the country.

If the situation stabilised in the country, the minister added, the training could continue on Libyan soil.

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It is hoped the UN-backed national unity government will restore stability in war-ravaged Libya

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said: “We are defending the same cause, we are defending the same interests: the respect of the identity, the integrity, the independence of every country.

“It’s for the sake of this common cause that we came here, bringing our complete support to the government of Mr Seraj and calling on all countries who want to join, to give a real chance of success to the legitimate, national unity government of Mr Seraj.”

Mr Sarraj’s government arrived in Tripoli earlier this month, and is now operating from the city’s naval base.

The GNA is yet to receive an official endorsement from the parliament in the eastern city of Tobruk, which is internationally recognised as legitimate.

A vote on the issue is expected on Monday.

Last week, the rival government in Tripoli announced it was stepping down to prevent further bloodshed.

Libya slid into chaos after the 2011 Nato-backed uprising that ousted Col Gaddafi.

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