The Malta Independent 27 May 2024, Monday
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Government still considering hosting Libyan peace talks in Malta, request made in January

Neil Camilleri Wednesday, 27 May 2015, 09:00 Last update: about 10 years ago

The government is still considering whether or not to accept a proposal, put forward by the Tripoli government – which it does not recognize – that would see Libyan factions meeting in Malta to try and form a unity government.

For some reason, however, the government has so far taken more than four months to take a decision on the proposals, which were put forward in January.

Documents obtained by The Malta Independent show that the Libyan authorities sent several requests to the Foreign Affairs Ministry  and then to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, asking a meeting to be held in Malta. However, five months on, the government has not yet acknowledged these letters, let alone replied.  Malta has followed the European Union and the United Nations in recognizing the Tobruk parliament. Foreign Minister George Vella has stated that Malta is open to discussions with both sides but has been accused by Tripoli of refusing to recognise or dialogue with the government there. There are currently two Libyan embassies in Malta – on representing Tripoli in Balzan and the other representing Tobruk in Attard.

This paper has seen three letters, which were sent to the Foreign Ministry by the Tripoli authorities via the respective Libyan embassy in Malta.

The Tripoli government is requesting permission for an official delegation to visit Malta, the signing of draft agreements drawn up last year, a debate on the two Libyan embassies situation and, most importantly, for both Tripoli and Tobruk to meet in Malta in talks on a single unity government held under the auspices of the United Nations and the European Union.  The government has not replied to the diplomatic letters.

No reply from PM’s office

The same requests were then forwarded directly to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.  In an email dated 13 January 2015, the person who contacted Dr Muscat said: “We have been contacted by a special envoy of the Tripoli Prime Minister to make arrangements with your office for a possible meeting with Libyan ministerial delegation. The proposed visit was supported with an official notification letter from the Tripoli Prime Minister office. During the past days we have been contacted by the Libyan side to seek any reply from your kind self.”

Two days later, another email was sent to Alex Sciberras Trigona, the government’s representative to the World Trade Organisation. “The Tripoli government have contacted me last week to inform the Maltese Prime Minister to ask permission for a ministerial delegation to come to Malta.

The main reason for this visit is the following: The signing of all agreements between Malta and Libya which was drafted last year, to work out a solution for the Libyan embassy, and discussing the possibility of having Malta as a venue for meetings for the two parties under the UN and the EU. Letters have been sent regarding this visit (Note Verbale) to the Foreign Ministry and a letter to the Prime Minister’s office. The Tripoli government coordinator has been in continuous contact on daily bases with me asking about any progress. Unfortunately I have no reply for them since I have not received any reply from the Prime Minister’s office.”The letters sent to the OPM also went unacknowledged.

‘Malta missing a golden opportunity’

Meetings on the setting up of a Libyan unity government are now being held in Morocco. A source said the government had missed an excellent opportunity to be part of the Libyan peace process, something which would have not gone unrewarded by a new united Libya. “Instead, the government is taking sides and breaking Malta’s neutrality clause by aligning itself with the EU in its planned military operations against human smugglers in Libya – something which the Tripoli government has said it would not accept.”

Foreign Minister George Vella has always insisted that the Maltese government only recognized the Tobruk-based government, which was in line with the EU. However sources explained that this was far from the truth, since the UN recognized states and not governments, which “come and go.” Besides, the Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Bernardino Leon, is mediating the Morocco talks and has proved to be open to discussion with both Tripoli and Tobruk.

Government sources now said Malta is mulling whether to accept the offer, which, it is understood, still stands, but the reason why the government has remained undecided for the past five months is unclear. The Tripoli side, it was explained, still believes the Malta talks should be held because it is believed that the Morocco meetings will not reach a final conclusion.

Some sources said the government wanted to take a cautious approach, even when considering that hosting such a meeting in Malta would amount to a security nightmare.

Others, however, asked whether this was because government members favoured the Tobruk politicians for more personal or political reasons.


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