Tags: ML | Libya

Italian FM Visits Libya in Boost to UN-backed Government

Tuesday, 12 April 2016 09:21 AM

TRIOPLI, Libya (AP) — Italy's foreign minister arrived in Tripoli on Tuesday in a show of support for a U.N.-backed unity government that Western nations hope can unite the oil-rich country and lead the fight against a powerful Islamic State affiliate.

Paolo Gentiloni is the first European official to visit Libya since the head of the unity government arrived in Tripoli by sea late last month after a rival government backed by Islamists prevented him from landing at the airport. That government resigned a week later, but a third rival government is still based in Libya's far east.

Libya slid into chaos after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Moammar Gadhafi, with an array of militias, including extremist groups, carving out fiefdoms across the country and backing rival authorities. The chaos allowed IS and other extremist groups to take root, and transformed Libya into a major conduit for illegal migration to Europe.

Western nations now hope that a unity government led by Fayez Serraj, a little-known technocrat, can bring the country together and combat a local IS branch which has seized the central city of Sirte.

"We are strongly committed to support the new government and the presidency council," Gentiloni said after meeting with Serraj, adding that "many of my colleagues" will visit Libya "in the near future."

"The first message should be that the Libyan people and the Libyan government should be the one leading the activity against Daesh," Gentiloni said, using an Arab acronym for the militant group. "We are ready to cooperate," he added.

He said diplomats are discussing the reopening of missions in the capital, which were shuttered in 2014 amid heavy fighting between rival militias. Those battles left Tripoli in the hands of the Islamist-backed authorities and forced the internationally recognized government to relocate to the east.

Mohammad Shoaib, first vice president of the Libyan parliament that convenes in the east, told The Associated Press that the assembly will meet on April 18 to decide whether to endorse Serraj's government. The unity government would be able to convene in Tripoli once it has the parliament's endorsement.

The lawmakers rejected an earlier attempt by Serraj to form a government.

The establishment of a unity government in Tripoli with international legitimacy would pave the way for the lifting of an arms embargo, allowing Western nations to provide weapons and other support to Libyan forces battling extremists.

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Italy's foreign minister arrived in Tripoli on Tuesday in a show of support for a U.N.-backed unity government that Western nations hope can unite the oil-rich country and lead the fight against a powerful Islamic State affiliate.Paolo Gentiloni is the first European...
ML,Libya
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2016-21-12
Tuesday, 12 April 2016 09:21 AM
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