By Jamie Prentis and Michel Cousins.
Tunis/Paris, 3 July 2017:
France says it would like to reopen its embassy in Tripoli but believes now is not the right time.
“We would like it to reopen in Tripoli as soon as security conditions are right,” French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal has said.
The statement does not directly contradict one made by Presidency Council (PC) head Faiez Serraj who, following a call with new French President Emmanuel Macron four days ago, said that France was hoping to move back to Tripoli “as soon as possible”. However, the spin by Serraj was significantly different.
France’s mission to Tripoli left the capital in 2014 amid the general diplomatic exodus. Its current ambassador, Brigitte Curmi, has made frequent trips to Libya to meet with key players across the political and military spectrum, but nothing definite has been said about returning.
So far, only Italy and Turkey have reopened their Tripoli embassies.
Observers are meanwhile waiting to see how France’s policies towards Libya develops under the new president.
A French statement after the Serraj-Macron call said the new president underlined his support for the UN-backed Prime Minister and his PC.
However, the man chosen by Macron to be his foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, backed closer relations with Khalifa Hafter when he was defence minister on the previous socialist government under former President François Hollande. The Libyan National Army was provided a degree of intelligence and technical support from the French.
Le Drian is expected to be thoroughly occupied with Libya next week. He is due in Tunis tomorrow for two days of talks with officials and Libya is to figure significantly in the discussions. He then heads to Algeria on where on Monday the Tunisian and Algerian foreign ministers will also be meeting to assess the situation in Libya and its effect on them, and to coordinate plans accordingly, including counter-terrorism efforts.
Le Dian is due on Thursday in Cairo where according to Egyptian reports, Libya will again be a main focus of discussions both with foreign minister Sameh Shoukry and President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.