EU vows to support Libya but rules out sending troops

AP News
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Posted: Mar 20, 2015 11:24 AM
EU vows to support Libya but rules out sending troops

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leaders, concerned about migrants using Libya as a jumping-off point to reach the continent, pledged Friday to help the conflict-torn country regain stability but ruled out deploying any security operation.

The leaders backed the U.N.-brokered peace process that is trying to bring Libya's opposing factions together in a new government and called for the warring militias to lay down their arms.

"There must be an immediate and unconditional cease-fire, and rapid agreement on a government of national unity," European Council President Donald Tusk said after hosting an EU summit in Brussels.

The EU's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said Europe is "planning all possible ways of supporting, even on the plan of security, a future national unity government." She has said Europe could mount a military and border operation, and help build Libya's police and justice systems.

But many of the EU's 28 member countries are reluctant to send troops or resources while Libya remains unsettled, with rival governments in place.

"There is no question of a military intervention," French President Francois Hollande told reporters. "Politics must play its role, that's what been missing in recent years."

Libya is the main departure point from Africa for migrants fleeing poverty and war in search of better lives in Europe, and officials now fear that extremists could also make the crossing.

EU statistics released Friday showed the number of overall asylum applications rose 44 percent from 2013 to 2014, to 626,000. One in five was fleeing the conflict in Syria.

"Europe must remain alert because it could be hurt by any deterioration in Libya, whether it be migration, extremism, terrorism or all kinds of trafficking," Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said.

Libya has two parliaments and two governments, along with rival militaries and militias. The power struggle and fierce fighting has plunged the country into chaos and paved the way for the Islamic State group's expansion.

The EU will not send any mission without an official request from the U.N. or an invitation from a Libyan government.