EU ambassadors fly to Benghazi for talks with Haftar and HoR on National Conference – Al Marsad

Libya, 26 March 2019 – In an unprecedented move, 14 ambassadors and representatives from European Union (EU) countries flew to Benghazi today, Tuesday, to persuade Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and the Hose of Representatives (HoR) to fully back the National Conference in Ghadames on 14-16 April being organised by UN special envoy Ghassan Salamé.

The ambassadors and representatives taking part in the visit were from the EU, Austria, Belgium, The Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and Sweden. An EU statement published afterwards indicated that there would have been more ambassadors however, they had been unable to take part in today’s events.

The 14 had separate talks with the field marshal and with an HoR delegation led by the head of the its foreign affairs committee, Yousef Ibrahim Al-Agouri.

In a statement, the EU diplomats said that the main aim had been to reaffirm EU support for Salamé’s efforts to end the transitional phase that had started in 2011 and to urge all parties to rally behind efforts to make the conference a success.

Repeating Salamé’s words to the UN Security Council last week that Libya was at “critical juncture”, they said that the EU was committed to a “close partnership” with a Libya that was “a united, stable, democratic and prosperous neighbour”.

The diplomats also reiterated Salamé’s call at his Security Council briefing for elections as soon as possible and for Libyans “to refrain from any incitement, especially through the media, and to work towards defusing tension”. There were calls, too, for women to have leadership positions “at all levels of the state”. On a different note, they expressed concern about reports of human rights abuses and called for all perpetrators to be held accountable.

The mass visit follows a similar meeting on 12 March in Tripoli involving 15 EU ambassadors and State Council members, at which the Europeans likewise expressed their support for the National Conference as well as of the meeting in Abu Dhabi on 27 February between Presidency Council head Faiez Sarraj and Haftar. One of the most respected members of the State Council, Abdulrahman Al-Shater, was reported describing that meeting as “disappointing.”

Last week, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited both Sarraj in Tripoli and Haftar in Benghazi, reportedly in the case of the latter, to urge him to hold back on any military moves against the capital and allow time for Salamé’s diplomatic efforts at solving the crisis to succeed.

The full text of the statement is below.

Joint local statement following the visit by European Union Ambassadors to Benghazi

Benghazi, 26 March 2019

Following their joint meetings in Tripoli on 12 March, Ambassadors of the European Union and the Member States accredited to Libya travelled today to Benghazi for meetings with the General Commander of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar, and with a Delegation of the House of Representatives led by the Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Yousef Al-Aghouri.

The main objective of the visit was for Ambassadors and representatives of the European Union, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and Sweden to reaffirm the EU’s support to the efforts of UN SRSG Ghassan Salame towards ending the transitional phase which Libyans have been living through since the February revolution, and to urge all parties to rally behind these efforts to ensure the success of the National Conference which will convene in Ghadames next month.

At the end of the visit, the European Union Delegation issues the following statement in agreement with the EU Heads of Mission to Libya*:

“In our meetings today in Benghazi with Haftar and the House of Representatives, we reaffirmed the EU’s unwavering support to the efforts of UN SRSG Ghassan Salamé and UNSMIL to broker a political agreement among Libyan stakeholders towards ending Libya’s political transition. As Ambassadors accredited to the whole of Libya, we also came to Benghazi at this critical juncture to reaffirm to Libyans across all regions the EU’s commitment to a close partnership with Libya as a united, stable, democratic and prosperous neighbour.

We welcome the announcement by SRSG Salame that the National Conference – which the European Union will support financially – will be convening next month in Ghadames bringing together all key stakeholders. We urged all our interlocutors, across the country and abroad, to seize this opportunity to end the current stalemate and usher in a period of stability and prosperity which the Libyan people deserve. We call upon all Libyan parties at this delicate phase to refrain from any incitement, especially through the media, and work towards defusing tension.

We commend the ongoing discussions between key stakeholders to end the transitional stage in Libya and reaffirm our support for holding fair and secure national elections, as soon as possible. The establishment of a stable, unified and inclusive government that can deliver basic services for all Libyans should be the absolute priority. We stress the vital importance of the female presence in leadership positions at all levels of the state and women’s participation in political processes pursuant to UNSC resolution 1325.

An appropriate framework for effective local governance, based on successful municipal elections and a mechanism for a fair distribution of government revenues, remains a key pillar for the stabilization of Libya. We thus strongly support the announcement by the CCMCE that it will hold local elections in a number of municipalities in the next few weeks, and urge all actors to take the necessary steps to allow the holding of local elections by the CCMCE throughout the country.

We heed the call of the Libyan people for the restoration of security, and their desire to see unified security and military institutions, free from political, partisan and regional interference and subject to civilian and judicial oversight. In this context, the EU is committed to remain Libya’s main partner in the security sector, through EU instruments including EUBAM and Member States bilateral assistance, for the benefit of Libyans in all regions.

The EU welcomes effective and rules-based action against terrorist groups and organised crime, in compliance with human rights and Libya’s obligations under international law. However we are concerned by reports of human rights and international humanitarian law violations around the country, including those that took place during recent military campaigns in the east and south as well as various ongoing violations perpetrated in western Libya. The EU calls for the perpetrators to be held accountable, and urges our Libyan partners to uphold human rights in all circumstances. We also urge all relevant authorities to respect and protect the space of civil society organisations and journalists to carry out their work in freedom and safety.

The EU continues to support Libya in institution building, improving service delivery and community stabilisation, through projects and programmes, ongoing and committed, amounting to €431 million and implemented in all regions.

* This includes the Heads of Missions who were not able to take part in the meetings today.

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