The NATO deputy secretary general says the military alliance is ready to help the new UN-sponsored Libyan government in building up security institutions if requested.
“The progress towards the consolidation of this new government of national unity in Libya
is encouraging and we stand ready to assist the government if it requests,” Alexander Vershbow said on Saturday.
Vershbow’s remarks came as the European Union is expected to consider moving security personnel into Libya to help stabilize the crisis-stricken country.
EU foreign and defense ministers are expected to agree in a Monday meeting in Luxembourg to look into police and border training missions for Libya, initially in Tripoli, where the new government is trying to establish itself.
“Two years ago we were very close to implementing a program to assist the government at that time in Libya … to develop and reform its defense institutions,” Vershbow told reporters at the Globsec security conference in Bratislava.
“If this new government requests NATO assistance in the same area, we stand ready to help them out,” he added.
A member of the force assigned to protect Libya’s unity government stands at the entrance to where the government has their offices, in Tripoli, Libya, April 14, 2016. © Reuters
Diplomats said there had yet to be a detailed discussion with the new unity government in defining what kind of assistance they wanted from the EU and that the bloc is keen to avoid the impression of moving into North African state uninvited.
“It is a delicate balance,” said one senior EU official involved in the plans. “We need to prepare to help Libya, but we cannot jump the gun.”
Libyan officials with the new unity government were not immediately available for comment on the development.
Libya has been dominated by violence since a NATO military intervention followed the 2011 uprising that led to the toppling and killing of longtime dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.
The oil-rich state has had two rival administrations since mid-2014, when militants overran the capital and forced the parliament to flee to the country’s remote east.
The two administrations reached agreement on a unity government last December, and the new government received endorsement by the United Nations. However, it has had difficulty taking over.
Daesh, which is in control of some parts of Iraq and Syria, and other militants have also used the lack of security in Libya to get a foot in the door there.