European diplomats visit Libya to support unity government

The foreign ministers of France, Germany and Italy were in Tripoli to meet their Libyan counterpart Thursday in a show of support for the war-torn country’s newly formed unity government.

The joint visit by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Germany’s Heiko Maas and Italy’s Luigi Di Maio comes 10 days after the formation of an interim government to lead Libya to December elections.

Oil-rich Libya descended into chaos after dictator Moammar Gadhafi was toppled and killed in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, resulting in multiple forces vying for power.

Fighting only came to a halt last summer, and a formal cease-fire in October was followed by the establishment of a new Government of National Unity (GNU) led by interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.

The new transitional executive emerged from a complex U.N.-sponsored process launched in November, and its members were confirmed by Libya’s parliament on March 10.

The country had been divided between two rival administrations: the U.N.-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli, and its rival in the east loyal to putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar.

Libya’s population of 7 million, sitting atop Africa’s largest proven crude oil reserves, faces a dire economic crisis with soaring unemployment, crippling inflation and endemic corruption.

Another key challenge will be ensuring the departure of an estimated 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters still in the country, whose presence Dbeibah has called “a stab in our back.”

U.N. chief Antonio Guterres said he “remains deeply concerned” that “foreign elements” continue to operate in the North African country, in a report discussed by Security Council members Wednesday.