Greek PM to visit Libya, reopen embassy

Accompanied by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, the prime minister is set to meet the head of the presidency council, Mohammad Menfi and interim prime minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah.


Friday 02/04/2021
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks during a joint news conference with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece, November 11, 2020. (AFP)
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks during a joint news conference with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece, November 11, 2020. (AFP)

ATHENS - Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will next week become the latest in a procession of European leaders to travel to Libya to touch-elbows with the new Government of National Unity.

Mitsotakis will visit Tripoli on Tuesday “to normalise and restore relations”, Greek government spokeswoman Aristotelia Peloni told reporters. He will also reopen his country’s embassy which has been shuttered for six years.

Accompanied by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, the prime minister is set to meet the head of the presidency council, Mohammad Menfi and interim prime minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, Peloni said.

The visit will “signal the Greek embassy’s immediate reopening”, she added.

Greece’s embassy in Tripoli has been closed since July 2014, when a Greek navy frigate and two Greek other vessels helped to evacuate nearly 200 Greeks and other foreigners as the capital descended into chaos and militia violence.

The year, before the Greek embassy in the Gazzala area of central Tripoli was the target of a small “gelatina” bomb which caused no damage to the building but wrecked a car parked outside.

— Shifting trends —

Foreign Minister Dendias had previously visited Tobruk in July 2020 for talks with parliament speaker Aguila Saleh.

Oil-rich Libya has been torn by civil war since a NATO-backed uprising led to the toppling and killing of dictator Muammar Ghadafi in 2011.

The Greek PM’s visit signals shifting trends in the region. During the Libyan civil strife, Athens had backed eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar after the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) signed a controversial maritime agreement with Turkey in 2019.

Athens is fiercely opposed to the deal between Ankara and Tripoli, which claims much of the Mediterranean for energy exploration and as an Exclusive Economic Zone conflicting with rival claims by Greece, Cyprus and Egypt.

Among the foreigners evacuated by Greek vessels in 2014 was a number of Chinese nationals. This week there were reports that China too is about to reopen its mission in Tripoli.  Along with Ankara, Beijing was one of the major financial losers in the fall of the Ghadafi regime which owed billions of dollars on major construction projects, in China’s case large multi-storey housing developments, which still stand uncompleted.

The Chinese have however kept up links with Libya, in 2018 providing $6 million in medical aid to the country’s struggling hospital system.