Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis described his visit to Libya in terms of a restart of bilateral relations along with the restart of the country itself, addressing interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh during a joint press conference in Tripoli on Monday.
"I feel great joy that my presence in Libya combines two restarts, that of the country itself and that of our bilateral relations," Mitsotakis said.
In accepting his counterpart's invitation to Libya, the Greek prime minister said, "My main purpose was to highlight the reopening of the Greek embassy as a landmark of the dynamic restart of Greek-Libyan relations, and to convey a message of support to Libya's efforts towards peace and progress."
Both in the framework of the EU and that of the UN, Mitsotakis said, "Greece will stand by you on the path to free national elections," and added that "it is time we leave behind us everything that tried our relations in the past."
The priority he said was to reestablish energy collaboration, "which could be exteded to Renewable Energy Sources and electrical interconnections, which offer great opportunities for public and private investments," the Greek leader said. Noting that a traditional collaboration between the two countries is in defense and security.
He cited as example that over 280 Libyan officers have graduated from Greek Armed Forces schools, while officials of the Libyan Coast Guard are trained at the Center of Naval Deterrence. The latter is of particular importance, Mitsotakis noted, as the Libyan Coast Guard is instrumental in discouraging migration flows. "Therefore, our collaboration has a long history and a long future even in this sector," he concluded.
Developments in the last decade may have restricted economic relations between Greece and Libya, the Greek premier noted, "but, in reality, the Greek business presence in Libya was never interrupted - and now that the political situation is stabilizing, this interest is being revived."
Mitsotakis said he and Dbeibeh discussed options of collaborating in energy, construction, sea transport, and health that could be expanded to include other sectors including tourism, educaiton and culture.
He stressed also that a prerequisite of improved relations includes the immediate and complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Libya and, for Greece in particular, "the annulment of illegal documents that some people promote as international agreements but for us have no legal validity." He was referring to the maritime zone delimitation memoranda signed between the Tripoli-based government with Turkey in November 2019 that further strained relations with Greece.
Mitsotakis welcomed Libya's willingness to discuss the delimitation of mutual marine zones, and said the country was not alone, but that EU stood by it. In terms of bilateral relations, he concluded, "Geography sets the relations of two countries, not the lines some may mark on maps," as he expressed the hope that Libya and Greece build their relations on sincerity, willingess for dialog and respect of international laws.
PM Dbeibeh remarks
Opening the press conference, Dbeibeh referred to the role played by the prime minister's father, the late premier Constantine Mitsotakis, in improving relations between the two countires, and expressed appreciation for the current improvement in bilateral relations.
Dbeibeh - who heads a government of national unity backed by the UN to lead the country to elections in December - said that the two countries had a long history of economic, commercial and humanitarian relations, while presently he stressed his commitment to good relations with Greece.
In that framework, he said, lay the invitation for the reopening of the embassy in Tripoli, followed by that of the consulate in Benghazi. "We also hope for improvement in our relationship in the trade sector as well," he underlined.
In references to Libyan-Turkish relations, Dbeibeh said "we encourage talks between Greece and Turkey, and between Libya and Turkey, to delineate the economic zones and to continue collaboration in the Mediterranean region."
Libya seeks good relations with all countries in the region, the Libyan prime minister noted, and it seeks agreements that protected its interests. "We take care of the interests of our country and of our people," he said.
[NB: Original text has been updated, with minor edits]
PM Mitsotakis meets with head of Libya's Presidential Council in Tripoli
Mitsotakis expressed his support for "the new Libya and its government" during a meeting in Tripoli with head of Libya's Presidential Council Mohammed Menfi on Tuesday afternoon.
The reopening of the Greek embassy in Tripoli and later of the consulate in Benghazi will boost bilateral collaboration in all sectors, he noted.
The Greek premier is on an official visit to Libya. In the extended talks, he is accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias, Government Spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni, and diplomatic staff.