Dutch diplomatic representative to return to Tripoli

The Netherlands is once again to station its own diplomatic representative in Tripoli. However, it remains too early to re-establish a fully fledged embassy, and more money will be needed before such a move can be made.
‘Re-establishing a diplomatic presence in Libya will be an important step towards restoring full diplomatic representation in Tripoli,’ said foreign minister Bert Koenders. ‘A diplomatic presence is necessary to be able to monitor the complex situation on the ground, to improve contacts with the Libyan authorities and to better oversee our aid programmes.’

The Netherlands is once again to station its own diplomatic representative in Tripoli. However, it remains too early to re-establish a fully fledged embassy, and more money will be needed before such a move can be made.

‘Re-establishing a diplomatic presence in Libya will be an important step towards restoring full diplomatic representation in Tripoli,’ said foreign minister Bert Koenders. ‘A diplomatic presence is necessary to be able to monitor the complex situation on the ground, to improve contacts with the Libyan authorities and to better oversee our aid programmes.’
 
Mr Koenders announced his decision on Thursday after a working dinner with Libyan prime minister Fayyez Al-Serraj and foreign minister Mohamed Siala, who were visiting the Netherlands. The ministers discussed the political situation in Libya and migration-related issues. Earlier in the day the Libyan delegation held talks with Dutch businesses and visited the port of Rotterdam.
 
‘The ongoing instability in Libya, located on the European Union’s southern border, has a far-reaching impact on us too,’ said Mr Koenders. ‘Take the large flows of migrants, for example.’ The Libyan coastguard plays a major role in tackling migration flows and people smuggling. ‘People are facing dire conditions’ added Mr Koenders, ‘so we must not lose sight of human rights. In the first place this is the responsibility of the Libyan authorities, but we need to offer them assistance in coping with this complex problem.’ The minister also noted the important work done by bodies like the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR. 
 
Mr Koenders reiterated that the first step towards ensuring peace and stability in Libya was for the various parties in Libya to come to the negotiating table and seek a political solution. He said that the UN had an important role to play in this respect. Besides political issues and migration, Mr Koenders also talked with the Libyan delegation about economic cooperation.
 
The Dutch embassy in Tripoli was closed at the end of July 2014 for security reasons. Since then the ambassador and other staff have operated out of the Dutch embassy in the Tunisian capital, Tunis.
 
Although the security situation in Libya is far from ideal, Mr Koenders believes that the time is ripe for a Dutch diplomatic representative to return to Tripoli. ‘We have made a careful assessment of all the risks involved and obviously we are putting in place all the necessary security measures,’ he said. The minister’s aim is to ensure a swift return, although the precise timing has yet to be decided. Italy and Turkey have already reopened their embassies in Tripoli.

The opening of a Dutch office in Tripoli will be funded from existing budgets. In recent years there have been substantial cuts in spending on Dutch diplomatic missions abroad. Over the past few months there have been calls from the Scientific Council for Government Policy, the Advisory Council on International Affairs and the OECD for more resources to be devoted to boosting Dutch diplomatic representation abroad. ‘I wholeheartedly support those calls,’ Mr Koenders said. ‘After many years of cutting back, it’s time to start investing again in a strong diplomatic network.’

Ministry responsible