Malta's premier visits Libya to discuss migration, security

AP News
Posted: May 04, 2016 9:55 AM

VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — Malta's prime minister became the first head of government to visit Libya since the formation of a unity government following a U.N.-brokered agreement, meeting the Libyan prime minister-designate at a naval base near Tripoli's international airport.

Libya's prime minister-designate, Fayez al-Serraj, said the illegal migration phenomenon is a priority for the government, telling reporters that "we need to find solutions."

On security in Libya, al-Serraj said Libya always asked for assistance from the European Union, not intervention.

"The kind of assistance will be agreed by our experts and those of the EU and international community," he said, without offering a time frame.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told Maltese reporters that they discussed the presence of Islamic State militants in and around Sirte, noting that the unity government "is still operating from inside a military base, rather than from ministries."

"Security, at least in Tripoli, is one of our main concerns," Muscat said.

Muscat said the two countries agreed to set up technical commissions to work on illegal migration and energy issues. The possibility of Air Malta resuming flights to Libya was also discussed.

Malta wants to re-open its embassy in Libya, but first wants to ensure the safety of its diplomats.

"We will probably be one of the first Western countries to open an embassy here and that will undoubtedly lead to some pressure on the issuance of visas," he said. "We need to be prepared for this, to see how this will be managed, and identify any problems and find solutions."

Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled Moammar Gadhafi and has been split between rival governments since 2014.

The visit was part of a concerted effort by the European Union to boost al-Serraj's authority. Western nations hope that his U.N.-backed government can unite the country in order to combat an increasingly powerful IS affiliate there. IS militants gained a foothold in Libya amid the power struggle and security vacuum, taking over the central city of Sirte and carrying out deadly attacks across the country.