French, UK, Spanish ambassadors arrive in Libyan capital

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Ambassadors to Libya from France, Britain and Spain arrived in the capital Tripoli on Thursday, reiterating the international community’s support for the new, U.N.-brokered unity government and pledging to reopen embassies closed two years ago because of the fighting.

Most foreign embassies closed in 2014 as Tripoli descended into heavy clashes between militias supporting rival camps. The country later became engulfed in turmoil that has split it into rival governments and parliaments: an outdated parliament and a government backed by a set of Islamist militias and seated in Tripoli, and second parliament and its government based in eastern Libya, which had been internationally recognized as legitimate.

The diplomats met with deputies of prime minister-designate, Fayez Serraj, at a naval base in Tripoli. Earlier this week, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni visited Tripoli and announced talks are underway to reopen embassies. The government, known as the Government of National Accord or the GNA, is yet to receive an endorsement from the eastern parliament, which is Libya’s last elected House of Representatives. A vote is scheduled to take place on April 18.

The French ambassador Antoine Sivan, the British Ambassador Peter Millett and the Spanish Ambassador Jose Antonio also held meetings with heads of Tripoli’s six municipalities. Tripoli’s neighborhoods fall under control of different militias, most of them supporting the Serraj unity government.

The diplomats held a joint press conference during which they spoke about throwing Europe’s support behind the new government.

“We are all ready to deliver the necessary support to the unity government based on its request,” said Sivan, but added that they “will not interfere in the government’s internal work.”

Millet added that establishing the new unity government will help international efforts to combat the Islamic State group, which has exploited the chaos to establish a foothold in the central city of Sirte.

“We are working on enhancing the efforts to combat ISIS,” Millet said, using an alternative acronym for the extremist group.

Said Abdel-Raouf Beit el-Mal, the mayor of central Tripoli municipality, called the impending reopening of the embassies “a very positive sign,” and added that it will hopefully boost Libya’s economy by encouraging multinational companies to return.

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