Last updated: 12 November, 2011

Ashton to open EU’s Libya delegation in Tripoli

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton opened a delegation in Tripoli on Saturday and held talks with Libya’s interim leaders as the bloc moved to cement relations.

Heralding the bloc’s commitment to assist recovery from the eight-month conflict and “build a new Libya based on the rule of law, democracy and human rights,” Ashton also visited Martyrs’ Square.

Her previously unannounced visit was designed to support and assist the new Libya during its transition to democracy, Ashton said at a ceremony to mark the opening of the EU mission.

She also addressed the first Libyan Women’s Rights Forum.

Asked for comment on the impact on Libyan women of polygamy and a ban on divorce, Ashton’s spokeswoman last month said that “we expect the new Libya to be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles.”

In a statement Saturday, Ashton said the 27-nation bloc would continue to support civil society in Libya, “in particular women and young people, who have a major role to play in shaping Libya’s future.”

“Opening a fully fledged EU delegation in Tripoli underlines the EU’s commitment to our close relationship with the Libyan people, both during the political transition and in the long term,” Ashton said.

In Tripoli, she met National Transitional Council (NTC) chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil and Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib.

In a joint press conference, Ashton said they discussed the elections planned for Libya in eight months, the security situation and the country’s post-war reconstruction.

Libya will adopt a moderate form of Islam, said Abdul Jalil, who has stressed that sharia Islamic law will be the main source of legislation. “There will be no extremist Islam. There will be a moderate Islam.”

Kib, the interim premier, who has until November 23 to form a government, said Friday that Libya’s transitional post-Kadhafi government will be transparent and will not include anyone from the late strongman’s regime.

Ashton’s visit came 48 hours ahead of a meeting of the EU’s 27 foreign ministers, who Monday will look at means of helping Libya recover from the months-long conflict.

Diplomatic sources said the ministers were likely to call for an inclusive transition process and express concern about reports of human rights violations, such as revenge attacks and summary executions.

They would also confirm the bloc’s readiness to assist Libya in a range of sectors.

The EU is taking part in a UN-headed assessment of Libya’s needs, including border management, civil society and women’s rights as well as communications and media.

Since the beginning of the crisis, the EU has provided more than 155 million euros ($213 million) in humanitarian support.

The European Commission, the EU executive, in addition is making some 30 million euros available to support the immediate stabilisation priorities of the NTC, with a further 50 million euros set aside for longer-term programmes.