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German-French show of support in Libya

April 16, 2016

The German and French foreign ministers have traveled to Libya to show support for the country's new unity government. Libya is struggling to recover from deep political divisions.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Jean-Marc Ayrault
Image: Getty Images/M. Turkia

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault flew into the Libyan capital, Tripoli, for talks with the new, UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). The visits came two days before a vote by the country's internationally recognized parliament on whether to endorse the GNA.

Ayrault told journalists after meeting prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj that the GNA is seeking "training for its police and military forces." Steinmeier added that the country's security forces perhaps needed to be trained "outside of Libya" initially, referring to a possible EU mission to assist Libya's police and border guards.

Steinmeier also told reporters he believed that the Libyans themselves were ultimately the only ones able to rebuild their national institutions.

The unannounced visit came after a visit by the ambassadors of France, Britain and Spain, who pledged to reopen their embassies in Libya. The diplomatic missions had been closed two years ago because of instability in the country, which saw Libya split into rival governments and parliaments.

A partner in the fight against IS

World powers regard the GNA as a crucial partner in tackling jihadists affiliated with the self-styled "Islamic State" (IS). Islamic militants have staged a string of deadly attacks in Libya in recent years.

The Agence France-Presse news agency said that the most recent IS attack in the city of Benghazi on April 15 had killed at least two soldiers, while the jihadists claimed to have killed as many as 50.

IS filled part of the power vacuum created after the 2011 uprising that saw former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi ousted and eventually killed. The country has had two rival administrations since mid-2014 when a militia alliance took over Tripoli, setting up its own government and forcing the recognized parliament to flee to the country's remote east. The UN believes that all sides in Libya's conflict had likely committed a range of human rights abuses, including torture, rape and beheadings.

The UN-backed power-sharing deal in December was backed by some lawmakers on both sides.

ss/rc (AFP, AP)