Dendias to Mangoush: December Elections Are Essential for Libya’s Sovereignty and Independence – Al Marsad

Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias received yesterday at the Greek Foreign Ministry in Athens the Libyan Foreign Minister of the interim Government of National Unity (GNU), Najla al-Mangoush, for bilateral discussions. 

This was Najla al-Mangoush’s first official visit to Greece as Foreign Minister, and a follow up from their meeting in Tripoli when the Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was accompanying Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

At the press conference after their meeting, Dendias welcomed Mangoush to Athens as the “first female Minister of Foreign Affairs of Libya and in fact a female Minister who took office in a very difficult period.”

He said Greece was a friend of Libya and of the Libyan people and that historically this relationship went back many centuries, and one which continues today with the presence of the Greek community in Libya, “even under the most adverse conditions.”

He also said that Greece, referring indirectly to Turkey’s expansionist foreign policy in Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean, was “not attempting, unlike other countries in the region, to turn back time and make Libya a de facto colony of foreign interests.”

“We do not seek to impose any illegal agreement on Libya, any agreement that the Libyan House of Representatives itself has rejected”, reiterated Dendias.

He stressed that Greece was interested in the stabilization, growth and prosperity of Libya. Dendias said, “We want Libya to participate in the new architecture for an understanding of stability and security that our region needs.” He said given the geographic closeness of both countries, with Crete only 20 mins away from Libya by flight, and which meant that stability in Libya affected the whole region.

Interestingly, Dendias also touched on the issue of extremist ideological groups in Libya. He said the “prevalence of extremist ideologies in a country so close to Europe and Greece, of ideologies that do not endorse our values, is something extremely dangerous.”

He lamented the fact that extremist ideologies are spreading across the world today, and that “Medieval perceptions and ideologies that, for example, would never accept a female minister, not even a working woman who walks unaccompanied in the street.”

Given the recent take over of Afghanistan by the extremist Taliban, and the fact that many of Libya’s extremist leaders praised them, and given the recent concerns expressed by Tunisia on terrorist elements in Libya, the message that Dendias conveyed to Mangoush was very important. Dendias said Greece had a “moral duty to help Libya.”

The Greek Foreign Minister said Greece was one of the first countries to re-open its Embassy in Tripoli last February and the the first country to reopen a Consulate General in Benghazi.

He said that Greece had donated 200,000 vaccines to address the corona virus pandemic and that his country was ready to “assist the Libyan people in their daily lives.”

“We are trying to help operate the Tobruk power plant and we hope that, with our encouragement, Greek businesses will come and help, will work for the reconstruction of Libya,” added Dendias.

He also noted Greece’s contribution to the EU’s IRINI Operation with vessels and aircraft and that Greece was encouraging the strengthening of EU-Libya relations. He said the EU “should clearly realise that Libya is not a distant country of Africa but a neighbour, a Mediterranean country,  and “instability at the southern shores of the Mediterranean affects all the states in the region and that should be clearly understood by all the countries in the region.”

Dendias emphasised that the most important issue for Greece was to ensure the “independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Libya and that this was only possible through holding fair elections on 24 December. “We hope that this will be possible, as provided for in the United Nations resolutions,” he said. Dendias stressed that in order for fair elections to be held that “all foreign troops, all paramilitary, all mercenary forces must withdraw” from Libya and that there should be no foreign military presence.

He hoped that the a new elected government in Libya would be able to “free itself from the burdens of the past, such as the invalid, non-existent and illegal “Turkish-Libyan Memorandum”. He said that this MOU was rejected both by the international community and by the Libyan House of Representatives. “We take the view that it is a legal paradox, a legal absurdum that disregards any notion of International Law and the Law of the Sea”, and also “common sense as well as geography.”

In her turn, the Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush affirmed at the press conference that Greece was an important and effective part of Libya’s stability and therefore it should be part of the dialogue when it comes to Libya’s stability. She said the GNU welcome real and honest relations with the Greek government.

Mangoush called on Greece to support Libya in ensure success of the electoral process which was vital for achieving stability in Libya, and thereby for the entire Mediterranean basin in general. She called on the EU to play an active role in monitoring the stability of Libya and assisting with peacekeeping mechanisms in the country.

Mangoush said Libya would benefit from Greece’s experiences in the maintenance and management of ports, as well as in the field of renewable energy, in addition to the maintenance and restoration of buildings and ancient Greek historical cities in eastern and western Libya.

She asked Greece to urge the EU to think seriously about developing plans to help and support Libya in facing illegal immigration. Mangoush said Libya, as a transit country, suffered from the consequences of illegal immigration in light of the security and political challenges the country is going through. She said support and assistance of the EU to Libya in confronting this phenomenon would enhance regional and international cooperation.