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Have things gone the way we were planning for, I would be in Libya today, under the Libyan sun, instead of the grey sky of Brussels. But Heiko Maas [Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany], Luigi Di Maio [Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy], Jean-Yves Le Drian [Minister of Foreign Affairs of France ], and Dominic Raab [Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom], and myself, we have not travelled to Libya as expected due to the security situation there. We were strongly advised not to do this travel. I was in Rome last night waiting to take the plane, but finally we decided not to go and instead to have a meeting here in Brussels today.
This meeting has just finished and I think that we have a good result. It was a good opportunity for the four ministers to express our strong support to the Berlin Process and to express our worries about the situation in Libya. We have agreed on a Joint Statement in which we are calling for an immediate stop to any further escalation of violence and also to the external interference which has been increasing over the last days.
As you know, Libya is a priority for the European Union and we will be actively engaged with all relevant actors in our efforts to stop the hostilities and achieve the resumption of a political dialogue. We know that the situation is worsening day by day and the only solution in Libya, once again we have to repeat it, has to be a political negotiation among the parts. There is no military solution.
Worried as we are by the situation in Libya and in Iran, we have called for an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council scheduled for this Friday. Today, with my colleagues ministers, we agreed that the overriding urgency is to stop the fighting in and around Tripoli and asked for an immediate cessation of hostilities. Any escalation and also any outside interference will only make the conflict more protracted, bring more misery to ordinary people in Libya, exacerbate divisions in the country, increase the risk of its partition, spread instability across the region and aggravate the threat of terrorism.
We have also called for a strict respect of the arms embargo declared by United Nations and we hope that the Berlin Process, led by Germany, will be able to develop solutions to the Libyan crisis. Next Friday we will assess with the rest of the Member States how to take EU actions forward.
You also know about the Iran situation. It has not been the subject of this meeting, but it will be the subject of the extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council on next Friday.
I remain at your disposal for any questions.
Q. Parmi les mesures que l’Union Européenne pourrait prendre, est-ce que vous comptez soumettre aux ministres une éventuelle reprise de la mission navale Sophia dont le mandat était notamment de veiller à la mise en œuvre de l’embargo sur les armes en Libye ?
En effet vous avez raison, la mission Sophia a entre autres le but de surveiller l’embargo sur les armes et ceci par mandat des Nations Unies. Malheureusement la mission Sophia est toujours active mais pas opérationnelle car il n’y a pas de bateau d’aucune marine de guerre européenne dans les eaux de la Méditerranée centrale. Par contre nous savons qu’il y a des navires turcs qui patrouillent les côtes libyennes. Redonner à la mission Sophia de nouveau des éléments opérationnels a toujours été sur la table et nous allons sans doute en parler.
Q. We are talking about political solutions, are you here talking about General [Khalifa] Haftar to be engaged in European discussion? Has the EU enough force to stop Turkey’s military action?
For sure we have to talk with all actors on the Libyan process. For sure, we have to talk with [Fayez] al-Sarraj, the Head of the Government of National Accord and for sure we will have to talk with General Haftar. I hope that maybe in the next days we will be able to have the contacts that were not possible to have in Libya today. We will continue trying to keep in touch with the Libyan actors in order to express directly to them these relevant points that we have agreed today with our European colleagues.
And it is not a matter of force. The European Union is not using force, it is using diplomatic activity, it is leading by example, it is preaching the rule of law and we are asking for a diplomatic solution on the understanding that there is no military solution in Libya and that continued hostilities and continued acts of violence like the extreme one we witnessed some days ago - the attack against the military school in Tripoli - is not bringing any solution but increasing the suffering of the Libyan people.
Q. Was Turkey’s decision to deploy troops in Libya discussed today? What was said about it? To what extend does this help or complicate the situation?
As I said, we asked for a cease-fire and we asked also to stop the escalation and the external interferences which have been increasing in the last days. It is obvious that this makes a reference to the Turkish decision to intervene with their troops in Libya which is something that we reject and that increases our worries about the situation in Libya. I have not said that very explicitly but it is clear, to someone who wants to understand, that when I am talking about these increased external interferences I am making a reference to the interference of Turkey.
Q. Are you in contact with the Turkish authorities to speak about that question?
I was talking with the Turkish authorities some days ago, before Christmas, for other reasons, about this agreement with the Libyan government. Tomorrow several European countries will go to a meeting in Egypt, they will talk also about it. You know there is a permanent and constant set of talks, telephone calls, everybody keeps in touch with everybody. Do not worry, this is not the problem, we talk with everyone.
Link to video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-182709