German, French Ministers in Tripoli as Libya in Refugee Focus

  • Ministers to meet with unity government, presidential council
  • Trip comes after EU's Tusk warned of refugee wave from Libya

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault made an unannounced trip to Tripoli for talks with Libyan officials as Europe seeks to prevent a potentially overwhelming wave of refugees from the war-torn country.

Steinmeier and Ayrault plan to meet Libya’s presidential council and Prime Minister Fayez el-Sarraj, who heads the United Nations-sponsored unity government, the German foreign ministry said in an e-mailed statement Saturday.

Jean-Marc Ayrault and Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Photographer: Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images

“The path to peace and stability in Libya comes via the implementation of the peace accord and the national unity government,” Steinmeier said in the statement. “We want to help people in Libya notice: political understanding comes with the chance to return to a normal life in security and peace.”

As Europe gets a grip on the biggest refugee wave since World War II through an agreement last month with Turkey to stem flows to Greece, politicians are shifting their focus to Libya. A fledgling unity government there is struggling to halt a collapse that has uprooted nearly half a million people and enabled Islamic State to establish a presence along the Mediterranean Sea.

European Union President Donald Tusk on April 13 warned about a possible overwhelming influx of refugees from Libya, saying that Italy and Malta may need EU support to cope. The number of refugees headed to Italy jumped to 9,676 in March from 3,828 in February, according to the United Nations.

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