Former MEP candidate takes on Maltese government over Tobruk support

Ivan Grech Mintoff, who ran on a eurosceptic ticket under the 'Alleanza Bidla' banner in the European elections of 2014, is insisting in a war of words with the foreign ministry by accusing the government of breaching its constitutional neutrality by engaging only with the internationally-recognised government of Tobruk

Ivan Grech Mintoff
Ivan Grech Mintoff
Former MEP candidate insists on Maltese neutrality towards Libyan factions

The Maltese government’s insistence to recognise the Libyan government exiled in Tobruk is “unconstitutional” according to Alleanza Bidla spokesperson Ivan Grech Mintoff.

The political grouping, which was created in the run up to last year’s European election, has held three press conferences in a matter of days over the situation in Libya.

Today he alleged that Libyan funds were “manipulated” by the Maltese government, however refused to provide more details and instead hinted that he would reveal details on this in the coming days.

Last year, the disbanded Libyan parliament that was replaced by the House of the Representatives in an election in June elected an Islamist-backed deputy as the new prime minister, leaving the chaotic country with two rival Prime Ministers, governments and parliaments, each backed by armed factions.

Moreover, the Libyan parliament based in Tobruk announced it will not issue any visas to Maltese citizens, unless they are security-cleared. This latest step in the complication of Maltese-Libyan relations comes on the back of a tug-of-war between the two separate Libya Dawn embassy based in Balzan, and the Tobruk-backed embassy that is now located in Ta’ Xbiex, both purporting to represent Libya.

Grech Mintoff claimed that Malta was isolated in its support for the Tobruk government and “the Foreign Minister does not seem to be aware of what our closest allies and neighbours and the international community are doing.”

He claimed that Italy recognises the Al Hassi government through its diplomatic presence in Tripoli, while France, the UK and Germany recently sent representatives to re-establish diplomatic relations with the self-proclaimed government in Tripoli.  

However, so far the international community, including the EU has only recognised the Tobruk government and in comments to MaltaToday foreign affairs minister George Vella said that the government is in line with official EU guidelines.

He added that the Tobruk government is the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people and asked why Grech Mintoff was championing the cause of the Libya Dawn government which is allied to Islamist militias such as Ansar al-Sharia and Al Qeada.

“Is Alleanza Bidla backing a government which is allied to Islamist groups who are behind atrocities such as the one witnessed today in Paris?” Vella asked in reference to the shooting at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris by masked Al Qeada gunmen which left 12 staff members of the satiricial magazine dead.

Asked whether he was supporting Islamist groups in Libya, Grech Mintoff said that he would not delve into internal affairs in Libya.

Yesterday, the foreign affairs ministry reiterated that Malta’s recognition of the Tobruk government as the legitimate representative of Libya is in line with the EU and the UN’s position.

However, Grech Mintoff today insisted government’s stand was incorrect because “the Tobruk government is not recognised by the UN” and  Prime Minister Abdullah al Thinni’s ambassador was recently rejected by the EU.

“The Constitution clearly says that in wartime Malta is a neutral country, however government is taking sides and this is unconstitutional. The government should not take sides but it should open dialogue with both sides.”

This, Grech Mintoff said, makes foreign affairs minister George Vella “unsuitable for his job” and challenged the minister to a televised debate to discuss the matter.

While urging the Maltese government to bring the two sides together he said Malta’s policy on Libya is in direct conflict with the UN and EU stance of not taking sides.

Asked why Alleanza Bidla was showing such keen interest in the Libyan situation, Grech Mintoff said that he was concerned because the conflict was harming Malta’s relationship with Libya.

Grech Mintoff denied that his political grouping was funded by the Tripoli government but said “unlike government we are not obliged to remain neutral but we have a right to take sides.”

Asked whether Alleanza Bidla was the Tripoli government’s voice in Malta, Grech Mintoff said “we did not take a cent, if anyone is accusing us of being funded they should prove it.”

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