Libya foreign minister in talks with Bartolo over EU budget for coast guard

Libya’s foreign minister Najla El-Mangoush has arrived in Malta for talks with counterpart Evarist Bartolo

Libyan foreign minister Najla El-Mangoush
Libyan foreign minister Najla El-Mangoush

Libya’s foreign minister Najla El-Mangoush has arrived in Malta for talks with counterpart Evarist Bartolo over a special EU budget to deliver military aid to Libya’s coast guard.

The EU is considering to se the ‘European Peace Facility’, originally brokered by the French, which has a €5 billion budget, which allows the EU to ‘shore up’ armies in Africa.

The fund is on the agenda in talks between Libyan and Malta, apart from other bilateral issues.

The money is actually an off-budget purse because the EU is banned from using funds to finance foreign military operations.

Last month, member states backed the proposal, which means EU states can approve money for supplying military and defence related equipment, infrastructure or assistance.

Following Bartolo’s meeting with French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian last week, and now with Mangoush, the EU steps closer to making use of the special budget, to deliver military aid to support Libya’s coast guard.

The European Peace Facility will be part of a deal to relaunch stalled Libyan coast guard training exercises.

The Libyan coast guard is already used by the European Union to prevent migrants and asylum seekers from reaching European soil. The EU’s border agency Frontex is collaborating directly with the guard, although some of the coast guard’s members are known to be linked to various Libyan militias, which torture and extort migrants for ransoms in detention centres.

Mangoush is Libya’s first female foreign minister. A lawyer and human rights activist, she was appointed foreign minister by the country’s interim prime minister, Abdelhamid Dbeibah, after he faced a backlash for backtracking on promises that 30% of ministerial posts would go to women.

A lawyer from Benghazi in the east, Mangoush is trying to navigate her way around an array of external actors in Libya.

On Saturday, a militia in Tripoli stormed the Corinthia hotel used previously by the unity government.

In footage broadcast over the weekend, the militia can be heard asking about Mangoush’s whereabouts and searching cars. She has come under pressure to resign and been subjected to personal abuse seven weeks into the job, after she called for Turkish troops and mercenaries to leave her country.

The US ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, defended Mangoush, saying the criticism must stop. “We fully support foreign minister Mangoush’s unambiguous call for the departure of foreign forces in the interest of Libyan sovereignty and stability,” he said.

Turkey claims its presence in Libya cannot be compared to those of Russian mercenaries since its troops are in Libya at the invitation of the previous Libyan government.

The Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who visited Tripoli last week, criticised those who suggest the Turkish presence in Libya is equivalent to that of illegitimate groups. But recent UN security council resolutions have called for all foreign mercenaries and troops to leave the country, as did a peace agreement signed by both sides last year.