Exclusive: EU prepares to lift sanctions on Libyan powerbroker, diplomats say

THE European Union is considering removing a broker in eastern Libya from its sanctions blacklist to encourage peace efforts and ensure the EU plays a central role in any negotiated settlement, said three diplomats.

After months of inaction, the European powers see a chance to reaffirm their role in Libya, in turmoil since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, after a ceasefire in August and to counter the growing military involvement of Turkey and Russia.

The EU has blacklisted Aguila Saleh, head of the rebel-held parliament in eastern Libya, since 2016 on charges of obstructing peace efforts. But diplomats said he was now a key figure in the drive to bring the two sides of the Libyan conflict closer.

The internationally recognized Libyan government of National Accord (GNA) declared a ceasefire last month and called for the lifting of a seven-month blockade on oil facilities. Saleh also called for an end to hostilities.

This was reprimanded by Eastern Commander Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army was backed by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, but whose stock was dwindled after a failed assault on Tripoli as a result of the support. Turkish military to GNA.

MORE ‘SPOILERS’

With Libya’s migratory routes close to European shores and its energy supplies, Italy, France and Germany, along with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, want to show unity and defend interests at their southern doorstep.

“There is now an opportunity for the EU to move. Borrell urges EU states to realize how close and important Libya is, ”said a European diplomat.

According to diplomats, EU states are working to remove travel bans and asset freezes for Saleh and Nouri Abusahmain, chairman of the Libyan National General Congress in Tripoli, one of the two rival parliaments, and Khalifa al-Ghwell, Prime Minister of the Government of Tripoli.

“We are headed for Saleh to be struck off. This allows us to send a signal to the “spoilers” because frankly everyone is talking to him, ”said a second European diplomat.

Jalel Harchaoui of the Clingendael Institute said there was consensus that Haftar’s time had passed and that Russia and Egypt had sought to bring Saleh to the forefront of the diplomatic scene.

“In view of this reality, other nations, including Europeans, are now joining the bandwagon. It is important to have one or more interlocutors who are not Haftar or his sons, ”he said.

Senior officials could first see a sanctions freeze, or the sanctions, which are due to be renewed in October, could be extended for a limited period.

The bloc also agreed in principle to add sanctions against two Libyan people and three Libyan companies, including those linked to the maritime and air sector, as part of efforts to enforce a United Nations embargo. on weapons.

A final deal could come later this month, though EU governments must overcome delays from Cyprus, which is delaying approval of all sanctions until the EU accepts a harder line to against Turkey in a dispute over energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean. Sanctions must be approved by the 27 EU states.



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