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Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas during questions put to the Federal Government in the German Bundestag

06.11.2019 - Speech

There has been much discussion about German and European responsibility in recent days and weeks. This is therefore perhaps a good opportunity to draw attention to a region in which both German and European responsibility are being called upon right now. One yardstick in this respect will be whether we as Europeans manage to stabilise our immediate neighbourhood and involve international partners in the process, as well as coordinate these efforts with international organisations. The region in question is North Africa.

The Arab upheavals of 2011 have given rise to entirely different situations in the region. Today, Tunisia is a vibrant democracy, as demonstrated once again by the elections that have just taken place there. In Libya, we are dealing with a collapsed state while Egypt is an extraordinarily tightly run and authoritarian country. However, despite all these differences, this region is extremely important for us in Europe, because, at the end of the day, our security and also our stability in Europe depend to a large extent on the security and stability of our southern neighbours, including North Africa.

Tunisia is a model of success emerging from the Arab Spring, a fact that was confirmed once again recently by the country’s parliamentary and presidential elections. This is why it was important to us to be the first international guests of the new President Kais Saied, thus sending an important signal of support for him. Germany is the biggest bilateral partner of the nascent Tunisian democracy, and we want the population to feel the positive impacts of the democratic transition that is taking place in the country. This is why we – and we made this much clear once again during our visit – are promoting good governance and the establishment and further development of the rule of law and the security forces. We also want – this was another issue that we discussed – to support investments by German business in Tunisia as the development of prosperity is particularly important to the population.

The situation in Libya is very different. You are all aware of the fact that the conflict within Libya has long since become a proxy war. While there have been ceasefires in the past, no ceasefire has been accepted since April of this year. It is weapons that are doing the talking. This makes the situation on the ground extremely difficult. The priority will be to find a political solution to this conflict. There have been many conferences on Libya in the past – in Paris, Palermo, Abu Dhabi – but none of them have yielded anything even close to substantial success. That is why at the G7 Summit in Biarritz it was agreed that a new political initiative, one led by Germany and structured somewhat differently from previous efforts, would be launched. Since then, a number of meetings have taken place that were organised by the Federal Foreign Office together with the Federal Chancellery, in particular with the countries of the region involved in the conflict, for example by supporting one of the two sides.

This approach is based on what we have maintained, namely that we want to first involve these so-called spoilers and thus create the conditions for arms supplies to be cut off and for an arms embargo to be put in place. This will make it possible to agree another ceasefire at long last, thereby laying the groundwork for the political process to resume. This whole approach is now known as the Berlin Process. It has been received in Libya, and also in the neighbouring states, as an extraordinarily hopeful sign that the international community, led by Germany, is involved in the efforts to bring about peace in Libya at long last, before guaranteeing it and flanking it with a peace process. This is to be concluded with a peace treaty and ultimately safeguarded in the long term under the aegis of the UN in the region.

For this, it has been necessary to hold discussions also with Egypt, both with President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry; after all, Egypt is extremely important as a supporter of one side in this conflict. When we were in Cairo, however, we did not neglect to point out once again that it must actually be in the Egyptian leadership’s fundamental interest for the Egyptian people’s freedom and civil rights to be better guaranteed than they are at present. Anything else, in our view – depending on how the country develops economically – will lead to people rapidly becoming dissatisfied once again, undermine political stability, and ultimately give rise to another source of conflict in the region that we do not need.

This initiative, the Berlin Process, is therefore geared to finding a political solution to the conflict in Libya. This is not only being facilitated, but also organised, by Germany. We are liaising with the countries of the region to this end and have been conducting this process in cooperation with UN Special Representative Ghassan Salamé for a number of weeks. We hope to be able to hold a summit in the foreseeable future in which the participating states will take part and which will create the conditions for finally getting the peace process in Libya back on track.

Thank you very much.

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