Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of Libya, Fayez al-Sarraj

  • 01 Feb. 2017 -
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  • Last updated: 01 Feb. 2017 17:21

(As delivered)

Prime Minister al-Sarraj,

Welcome to NATO Headquarters.

It is a great pleasure to see you again.  We last met in the UN in September and it’s a pleasure to continue the dialogue with you. 

We just discussed the security situation in Libya.  And progress is being made in the fight against radical groups. And ISIL has been driven out of its former stronghold of Sirte.  And I welcome that progress. 

Prime Minister, I commend you for your efforts to ensure an inclusive political process in Libya.  This is important for your country’s long-term stability.

At the same time, Libya continues to face serious political and security challenges. And we urgently need a political solution to the crisis, based on the implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement.

NATO supports you and your government as the sole representative of the Libyan people.  As you work to stabilise your country, several Allies are already providing military and economic support. And I welcome the support from several NATO Allies.

During our meeting today, we discussed how we can take our cooperation forward.

NATO stands ready to assist Libya in building effective security and defence institutions.

Strengthening your ability to fight terrorism and create conditions for peace.

Looking to the future, we could offer advice on establishing a modern Ministry of Defence, a joint military staff, and security and intelligence services under civilian control.

NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian is already supporting the EU’s Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean with logistical support and information sharing. 

If requested, we could also support the efforts of the European Union to strengthen the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy.  This could help keep the Mediterranean free from smuggling and terrorist activity – a strategic priority both for NATO and our partners in North Africa.

Prime Minister al-Sarraj, I look forward to continuing to work with you.  We share a commitment to a stable and prosperous Libya.  So that your people can enjoy the peace they deserve.

Before I end, let me address the situation in eastern Ukraine.

We see the most serious spike in violence in a long time.  Especially in and around Avdiivka and we see that the ceasefire is not respected.  There have been over 5,600 ceasefire violations in the past week.   This is according to the latest updates from the OSCE.

The humanitarian situation is dire, with twenty thousand people facing freezing temperatures.  Without heat, electricity and water.  We call for an immediate return to the ceasefire.  And withdrawal of all heavy weapons banned under the Minsk Agreements.  OSCE monitors must be guaranteed free and safe access throughout the region.  This must include Ukraine’s border with Russia.

We call on Russia to use its considerable influence over the separatists to bring the violence to an end.  All parties should implement their commitments under the Minsk Agreements in full.  NATO will continue to stand by Ukraine with strong political and practical support.

So once again, welcome to NATO Headquarters Prime Minister.  It’s a great pleasure to meet you and to discuss how NATO can provide support.  And support your efforts to stabilise your own country and to implement the political agreement.


Q:  Secretary General you expressed very clearly your political readiness to assist Libya but what, is there any concrete assistance that you can, NATO can provide to the government of Mr. Sarraj nowadays because this is the time when he needs? So, he needs a lot of assistance this time and at the same time his government doesn’t control the whole country. I have a question to Mr. Sarraj. [Interpreted]: Mr. Prime Minister with your permission to what extent do you deem this convergence between [inaudible] and Russia will help for a political agreement within Libya?

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General):  First of all we provide strong political support to Prime Minister Sarraj and the Government of National Accord. Because we strongly support the efforts to try to find an inclusive political solution to the crisis in Libya and we continue to express this strong political support. Second we are ready to also provide the practical support.  So the issue we discussed during our meeting today. Of course to provide practical support we need a request from Libya and but we are ready to for instance help Libya with building defence institutions. This is of great importance because you need strong institutions to make sure that you have political control over the armed forces and we see the importance of that especially in a country like Libya. NATO has done that before, we have done it in Bosnia, we have done it Afghanistan, we have done it in other countries where we have helped build strong defence institutions making sure that the political leadership have control over the armed forces. So this is about building a modern ministry of defence, this is about building a joint military staff and security and intelligence services under political control. Then we have the Operation Sea Guardian in the Mediterranean and Operation Sea Guardian already provides support to Operation Sophia, the EU mission there, with logistical support, with information sharing and this is of course also important for Libya. We are also ready to help develop the Libyan navy and coast guard if so requested by Libya. So I think that the key issue now is that NATO allies are ready to provide support. Many or at least several NATO allies already provide support on the bilateral basis but also are ready to provide support through NATO but we have to sit down and discuss exactly how we do this in the best possible way. And NATO has tried and tested structures to do exactly that, to build local capacity and to enable them to take full responsibility for security in their own country.

FAYEZ AL-SARRAJ (Prime Minister of Libya)[Interpreted]: Before talking about the relationship with Russia or any other party I’d like to record that the main purpose is that we aim at the unification of the military institution, a military institution that will help us combat effectively terrorism. We have very competent military commands but as I said the political divide and the political situation during the five past years have had a heavy impact on this institution. So today the very aim is to unify the institution, after that we will of course talk with the international community, the international parties.  It seems to me that all of them are keen on helping Libya and on bringing about stability. But before talking about those relations we have to unify our ranks.

OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson):  Belgian News Agency?

Q:  Yes, Gerard Gaudin, Belgian News Agency. A question for the Prime Minister. Are you ready to open the territorial Libyan waters to Operation Sophia and possibly to Sea Guardian?

FAYEZ AL-SARRAJ:  [Interpreted]: Yes we spoke in the past about this topic. Of course it’s a matter of sovereignty, these are territorial waters.  This is something to be carried out jointly between the Libyan Navy and any other party that will be interested in extending a hand to the Libyan Navy; that will be possible. Of course we have to modernize our navy flotilla and to enhance its capacities and it seems to me that NATO or any other friendly nation on a bilateral basis could extend a hand in this.

OANA LUNGESCU:  This concludes this press point, thank you.