EU ambassadors in Libyan capital Tripoli have backed proposals by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime to establish an independent mission to assess the situation on the ground, a diplomat told the press, despite the insistence of top EU officials that the embattled dictator should step down.
Speaking to the Brussels press yesterday (8 March), Agostino Miozzo, who works under the authority of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, said that Tripoli had asked for the UN to lead an independent investigation into alleged human rights abuses committed during the uprising against Gaddafi.
More surprisingly, Miozzo said that the eight ambassadors and chargés d’affaires (deputy ambassadors) from EU countries who are still present in Tripoli supported the idea. The eight countries whose embassies in Tripoli are still open are Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Malta and Romania.
Miozzo, a former Italian diplomat, said he had met with Ahmed Jarrod, head of the EU affairs department at Libya’s Foreign Ministry, who had assured him that Libya would protect foreign embassies and facilitate the departure of foreigners who want to leave. Jarrod also reportedly said that Tripoli lamented the departure of the diplomats.
The Italian said all EU diplomats in Tripoli had told him that they could not determine who was responsible for alleged human rights abuses and violence.
Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, said the possibility of sending an EU mission was under consideration and a decision would be made in due course. EU foreign ministers will discuss the situation in Libya at an emergency meeting tomorrow (10 March).
No more euphoria?
It is difficult to determine whether the apparent change of tone is due to the fact that the Gaddafi regime is apparently strengthening its hold on the capital and intensifying its offensive to crush rebels in several areas.
Many media outlets are describing the situation as civil war in a divided country. In besieged Zawiah, the closest rebel-held city to Tripoli, pro-Gaddafi forces used tanks and planes to bomb rebel positions.
Air strikes hit at rebels behind the no-man’s land between the coastal towns of Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad, 550km (340 miles) east of Tripoli and the site of oil terminals.
According to Reuters, rebel euphoria seems to have dimmed.
The rebel leadership said that if Gaddafi were to step down within 72 hours it would not seek to bring him to justice.
Earlier, the rebels said they had rejected an offer from the Libyan leader to negotiate his surrender of power. The government called such reports “absolute nonsense”.
Britain and France led a drive at the UN to set up a no-fly zone which would prevent Gaddafi from unleashing air raids or from flying in reinforcements. The Arab League and several Gulf states have also called for such a step.
Russia and China, which have veto powers in the UN Security Council, are lukewarm towards the idea of a no-fly zone.
The US government said it was weighing up military options and that action should be taken only with international backing.
List of sanctions and new partnership
Meanwhile, the EU agreed yesterday to add several Libyan financial organisations to its sanctions list. The new restrictions are expected to come into force on Friday (11 March).
According to diplomats, the EU’s 27 countries had agreed to impose sanctions on the $70 billion Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), the central bank, three other financial organisations and one individual, a former Libyan finance official. The list already covers 26 Libyans including Muammar Gaddafi and his family.
The new sanctions would freeze LIA investments in all EU countries and any other states that asset management firms oversee on behalf of the sovereign wealth fund. The LIA would not be able to receive dividends or sell any holdings.
The European Commission also unveiled yesterday new guidelines on behaviour towards the European Union’s southern partners, which it will submit to EU leaders gathering in Brussels on Friday for a crisis summit on Libya and the Arab world.
The so-called ‘Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean’ aims to link four billion euros of aid to be distributed throughout the region from 2011-2013 to progress on judicial reform, corruption and human rights, and places a special emphasis on civil society and small businesses.
“The Commission proposes following a clearly incentive-based approach,” said Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
“Partners who move faster on political and economic reforms should be able to count on greater support from the EU,” he added in a speech.
Two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the new proposals suggest a change of mandate for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which was originally set up to help Eastern Europe, enabling it to offer one billion euros a year to the Mediterranean region.
Barroso said the EU was seeking to make “a qualitative leap” with “neighbours who are willing and able to embark on the path of political and economic reform”.
“Fears of tomorrow’s unknown shall not prevent us from supporting today’s changes,” he said. “This is a rendezvous with history that we must not miss.”