Possible ‘measures’ to be taken against Libya deal blockers: Mediterranean ministers

Limassol, Cyprus, Feb 26, 2016 (AFP) – Mediterranean foreign ministers said Friday that European countries could take unspecified “measures” against parties in Libya who block a UN-backed unity government initiative for the war-torn North African nation. Libya has had rival parliaments and governments since 2014, after an Islamist-led militia alliance overran Tripoli and forced the internationally recognised administration to flee to the remote east of the oil-rich nation. Extremists including the Islamic State group have exploited the chaos, raising fears of jihadists using the Libyan coast as a launchpad for attacks on Europe.

Foreign ministers from Mediterranean countries belonging to the so-called “Med Group” warned Friday that the EU could take action against anyone blocking a unity government. “Measures could be taken against those held accountable of spoilers of such a solution,” the ministers said in a joint statement after meeting in Cyprus, without elaborating. “A government of national accord would be a crucial partner in tackling effectively the threats and challenges to Libya, including terrorism, particularly considering the growing presence of (IS) and other extremist groups,” they added.

Members of Libya’s recognised parliament said this week they had been intimidated from voting in favour of a unity government. Libya was thrown into turmoil after a NATO-backed uprising that toppled longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011. Western countries have agreed that military action is needed to dislodge IS in Libya, but world powers want a national unity government installed to request help before formally intervening.

Libya’s recognised government denied Thursday a report in the Le Monde newspaper that French troops were fighting in the country. “This is not true. We deny these reports,” government spokesman Hatem El-Ouraybi told AFP. Last week a US air strike hit a suspected IS training camp, killing more than 40 people including two Serbian diplomats being held hostage in a city west of Tripoli. And Italy this week agreed that US forces could use an airbase in Sicily to launch drone strikes against IS in Libya on a case-by-case basis.

The Med Group called for more action to stem the flow of migrants from Libya and to dismantle “criminal networks” exploiting the political vacuum there. “A comprehensive response is needed, utilising the full spectrum of tools that the EU has at its disposal,” the ministers said.

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