The Malta Independent 30 August 2016, Tuesday

UN Libya talks last chance for peace – MEPs worried about effect of continued conflict on EU border states

Kevin Schembri Orland Tuesday, 13 January 2015, 18:43 Last update: about 3 years ago

A debate regarding Libya in the EU Parliament saw close to unanimous agreement that the UN organised talks with Libyan factions is the last chance for peace within the African country.

"This week, the UN will begin holding talks among different parties within Libya, and many of the actors within Libya have chosen to attend," Commission Vice President and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini said in Parliament.

This is an opportunity that Libyans cannot afford to miss, she explained. "Take this opportunity because we are unsure if other opportunities for dialogue will open in the future".

"There is no alternative to dialogue. This is a decision that is in the hands of the Libyans and our role will be to support this process that must begin within Libya itself".

Federica Mogherini believes Libya is beyond the situation of a failed state, and is on the verge of total collapse. "Libya has one of the highest concentration of arms per square metre, no control of their borders, migrant flows without control, is at risk of spilling over to neighbouring countries. We have every right to be worried and we should have no illusion on the fact that we can stay away from Libya. Libya will not stay away from us".

She believes that "we are living in a strange bubble where we can see if the dialogue will show progress. We need to be flexible in the role we can play after seeing reactions in the UN Geneva talks".

EPP representative Mariya Gabrielle expressed the need to continue close cooperation with the UN envoy, the need for a ceasefire and a democratic roadmap, in order to avoid further polarisation. "The regional perspective is vital and the role of the Arab League is very important". She spoke of the need to handle the trafficking of arms which continues to destabilize the Arab region. "Libya must not become another Syria".

 

Consequences for EU Mediterranean countries could be disastrous

S&D representative Victor Bostinaru described the situation as grave and tense "where we are close to a failed state scenario. We need unity within the EU, and member states must avoid going it alone in the Libyan situation. We must stop the fighting between Libyan factions and this conflict must not become a regional conflict. We must ensure that the Islamic State does not take root in Libya. Elements of IS are already there but they must not take over".

In addition to this, ECR representative Bas Belder warned that American intelligence has reported Jihadist training camps all over Libya and not just in one isolated zone, heading up along the Libyan coast. Other EU MEPs warned that more Isis fighters are present in Libya now than before.

"The consequences for the Mediterranean border of the EU could be disastrous. Look at the immigration flows already present due to the conflict," ALDE representative Maura Barandiaran said. "The negotiations next week organised by the UN are the last chance for a ceasefire and peace. If no progress is made towards the end of the conflict, Libya runs the risk of falling into absolute chaos, which will create a breeding ground for terrorist groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Tribal Warlords will create stronger bases which will spill over to the surrounding countries.

EFDD representative James Carver sees Libya as a state of kidnapping and butchery. "The EU should just stay out. With whom will the EU communicate? American favourites, warlords or Islamic militants. We must not interfere in conflicts where there is no national interest".

Almost four years after the beginning of the Libyan uprising, rival political groups and armed militias continue to fight for power. MEPs were debating the deteriorating situation in the country with EU foreign chief Federica Mogherini on Tuesday afternoon. "Libya is at risk of becoming a failed state," said Pier Antonio Panzeri, the chair of the delegation for relations with the Maghreb countries, ahead of the plenary debate.

 

We cannot allow more innocent civilians to get killed - Miriam Dalli

Maltese MEP Miriam Dalli, said that "it is good for the EU to focus on the countries on the eastern side of Europe (referring to the situation in Ukraine), however has done so at the expense of the southern countries. It is now encouraging to see that the EU, Italy in particular, announce that it is ready to launch a mission for peace in Libya under the auspices of the UN. We cannot allow more innocent civilians to get killed. We do not have the luxury to allow terrorist ideologies ferment".

"The situation is very serious: Libya is in a state of chaos and at risk of becoming a failed state," said Panzeri, an Italian member of the S&D group. "This is of great concern as it affects issues such as energy resources, the flow of illegal immigrants and the presence of terrorist cells. Europe's task is to encourage dialogue between the various factions and strengthen the legitimacy of the elected Libyan parliament. There is no time to lose."

One MEP, in response to a Parliamentary question, made a rather strong statement within Parliament. "IS is just a few miles away from our borders".

The majority of MEPs stressed the importance of protecting civilian lives through dialogue and the need to find a democratic solution to the problem.

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