Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella has expressed concern about the people going in and out of the Libyan Embassy in Attard - which represents the unrecognised Tripoli government - but said the Maltese authorities cannot do anything about the situation since embassy grounds are technically considered as foreign soil.
The police cannot control who goes in and out of a diplomatic building. Dr Vella was replying to questions sent by The Malta Independent following the latest developments in Libya and in Malta. There are currently two
Libyan 'embassies' in Malta: The one in Ta' Xbiex, which represents the legitimate Libyan government, currently exiled in Tobruk, and the one in Balzan, which is loyal to the illegitimate Tripoli government. The representative of the Tobruk government, Chargé d'Affaires Al Habib Al Amin, has not been allowed in the Balzan building since his arrival.
The embassy has since started operating from Ta' Xbiex. In the meantime, the Balzan embassy is being led by a non-accredited 'Chargé d'Affaires', Hussain Musrati, loyal to the Tripoli government and who is not recognised by the Maltese government. Mr Musrati has accused the government of unfairly taking sides and not being neutral.
The Foreign Affairs Minister confirmed yesterday that Mr Musrati is not recognised as being the Libyan Embassy Chargé d'Affaires. As such, the government is not making any contact with him. On the other hand, the government recognises Mr Al Amin in Ta' Xbiex. Dr Vella noted that according to written European Union and United Nations guidelines, the Tobruk government is the sole recognised government of Libya.
He said there are three people that he contacts on Libya-related affairs: His Libyan counterpart, Mohammed al Dayri, Bernardino Leon, the UN's Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, and Nataliya Apostolova, the EU's Ambassador to Libya, apart from other Foreign Ministers and the High Representative Federica Mogherini herself. In the meantime, the situation became more complicated after both Libyan governments said they would be refusing or restricting visas issued in Malta.
The Tripoli government said it would not accept official visas issued by the Tobruk embassy in Malta. Then, the Libya Herald reported that the Tobruk government has imposed restrictions on Libyan visas to Maltese citizens.
The newspaper said the Libyan Ministry of Interior in Al-Beida instructed its Chargé d'Affaires in Malta not to issue any Libyan visas to Maltese citizens prior to receiving a security clearance from the ministry. Libya Herald said the Libyan Ministry took this action due to confirmed security reports that some Maltese arriving in Libya's western cities were offering "logistic" help to militias pertaining to the Tripoli government to the detriment of national security.
Replying to questions by this paper, Dr Vella said he took such reports at face value. Whilst not saying that these were true or untrue, Dr Vella noted that Libya Herald had carried a number of incorrect reports in the past. He also said restrictions on the issuing of visas were not something new.
The Minister said countries that require travel visas usually do background checks for security reasons. Malta has been doing this in the case of any visa applications by all foreign applicants including Libyans, for many years.
When asked which embassy is actually responsible for issuing visas now, the Minister said this was uncertain and one had to wait and see how things play out. "This is a matter that the Libyan parties have to solve between themselves. We have no control over who goes to Libya."
Dr Vella also explained that Libya only has a Chargé d'Affaires in Malta because the Tripoli government has so far not presented an official Ambassador. He noted that Malta has not had a Libyan Ambassador since before 2013.
Report by Rachel Attard and Neil Camilleri