Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier and his French colleague Jean‑Marc Ayrault made a surprise visit to the Libyan capital Tripoli on Saturday (16 April). The two ministers assured the new Government of National Accord under Prime Minister Fayez Mustafa al‑Sarraj of the support of the international community and handed over aid supplies.
The Franco‑German visit to the country ravaged by civil war had been scrupulously planned and prepared by the protocol sections in Paris and Berlin amid the utmost secrecy.
Then, on Saturday morning, Foreign Minister Steinmeier set off with a very small delegation from Berlin to Paris, where he met France’s Foreign Minister Ayrault at the airport to coordinate final details.
Visit prepared amid the utmost secrecy
Shortly before their departure from Paris, Steinmeier stressed once more the particular significance of the trip:
Our joint visit to Tripoli today with our French friends is intended to signal that the whole of the international community agrees that the path to peace and stability in Libya is through implementation of the peace agreement and the Government of National Accord.
Steinmeier went on to say that through their visit he and his French colleague wanted to show that political understanding goes hand in hand with the chance for the people of Libya to lead a normal life again in security and peace.
The two foreign ministers then continued their journey on a French government plane. Around 2 p.m. the plane landed at Mitiga airport in Libya’s capital Tripoli amid the strictest security. From there they travelled in a convoy with military protection to the seat of the Presidency Council and the Government of National Accord, which is located on a former navy base in Tripoli.
Assistance for the Government of National Accord
The talks with representatives of the Presidency Council and Libyan Prime Minister al‑Sarraj focused on the situation in the country, which has been plagued by civil war for many years. The chaos has recently also benefited the terrorist organisation IS, which controls the city of Sirte on Libya’s Mediterranean coast.
However, through the mediation efforts of UN Special Representative Martin Kobler, a German diplomat, it was recently possible to make progress towards stabilising the country and to form a Government of National Accord, although it is not yet recognised by all relevant stakeholders in the country.
A ton of medical aid supplies handed over
Steinmeier introduced a stabilisation fund initiated by Germany in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme UNDP. The fund is intended to help bring rapid improvements to the suffering population’s day‑to‑day lives. Germany has expressed its willingness to contribute 10 million euros to the fund. The two ministers also provided concrete assistance: around a ton of medical aid supplies was on board the aircraft.
Another discussion topic was the many refugees currently living in Libya and hoping to get to Europe from there.
Following his talks, Steinmeier, speaking to journalists, warned of the danger of overburdening the government in Tripoli in the current situation. He said that it was now crucial to support the government in extending its authority beyond the capital. Steinmeier said:
We have to support the government, and that must be our top priority at the moment.
In the early evening Foreign Minister Steinmeier then flew back to Europe on a German military aircraft. There the EU foreign ministers met in Luxembourg on Monday. Here, too, European support for the Libyan unity government was a central issue.