Libya to receive Dutch support

On Thursday foreign minister Bert Koenders visited Tripoli, where he met with Libyan prime minister Fayez Al Sarraj. It was the first time in three years that talks could be held with the Libyan authorities in the country itself. Mr Koenders also met with the Presidential Council, which is based at the Libyan capital’s heavily fortified naval base. They discussed the political and humanitarian situation in Libya and the regional migration issue.

Libya’s new unity government took office one month ago after 18 months of UN-led negotiations. According to Mr Koenders, ‘The key thing now is for the parliament to recognise the new government. In addition, the government needs to achieve results fast in order to keep up this momentum, not least by improving the living conditions of the Libyan people and joining the fight against ISIS.’

During his talks with Prime Minister Sarraj, Mr Koenders expressed the Netherlands’ support for the new unity government in Tripoli. ‘After a dark period of violence and despair, there is now a glimmer of hope and peace on Libya’s horizon,’ he said. ‘But to make that a reality, it is essential to stay focused on unifying the country. So the Netherlands is supporting the local reconciliation process and the establishment of a dialogue with the militias.’

Mr Koenders also expressed willingness to unfreeze Libyan assets in the Netherlands so that they can be used for humanitarian purposes. The Dutch government and the Libyan Presidential Council will jointly examine how this money can best be spent. In addition, the Netherlands will support small-scale local projects aimed at rapidly restoring Libya’s vital infrastructure and public services, such as water supplies and job centres. ‘We need to get that money where it is needed quickly,’ Mr Koenders said. ‘It will help get basic services up and running, which will strengthen the foundations for stability.’

While in Libya the minister paid a visit to the coast guard, based at the Port of Tripoli, to discuss joint action to tackle people smuggling and manage migration in a humanitarian manner. He also discussed people smuggling with Prime Minister Sarraj. The country’s border and coast guard needs to be strengthened in order to combat people-smuggling networks and improve the situation of migrants in Libya. The Netherlands will initially support the reinforcement of the coast guard by making a contribution to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

‘We have to work on this problem, because with summer approaching we expect the numbers of migrants attempting the crossing to Europe to increase,’ Mr Koenders explained. For years, the route via Libya has been popular in the summer months, in part because the coast guard there is less effective than in other countries. Working on behalf of the EU the minister recently agreed on measures with West African countries to stem the flow of migrants taking this route.

The Netherlands has made 2 million euros available for an international fund that will promote stability in Libya by working on reconstruction and supporting local authorities and the reconciliation process.