The European Union is planning to remove the Speaker of House of Representatives in Tobruk Aqila Saleh from its sanctions blacklist to encourage peace efforts and ensure the EU plays a central role in any negotiated settlement, three diplomats said, according to Reuters.
The EU has blacklisted Saleh since 2016, as he was accused of obstructing peace efforts, but the diplomats said “he was now a key figure in a push to bring the two sides of the Libyan conflict together”.
With Libya’s migration routes close to European shores and its energy supplies, Italy, France and Germany, along with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, want to show unity and defend interests on their southern doorstep, Reuters reported.
“There’s a window of opportunity now for the EU to move. Borrell is pressing EU states to realize just how close and how important Libya is,” one EU diplomat said.
According to the diplomats, EU states are working to remove the travel bans and asset freezes on Saleh and also on Nouri Abusahmain, president of Libya’ s General National Congress in Tripoli, and Khalifa A-Ghwell, prime minister of the Tripoli Salvation Government.
“We are heading towards a delisting of Saleh. It enables us to send a signal to ‘spoilers’ because frankly everybody is talking to him,” a second EU diplomat said.
The senior figures could first see a freeze of the sanctions, or the sanctions, which come up for renewal in October, could be extended for a limited period.
The EU has also agreed in principle to add sanctions on two Libyan individuals and three Libyan companies, including those linked to the maritime and aviation sector, as part of efforts to enforce a UN arms embargo.
The final agreement could come later this month, although EU governments must overcome delays from Cyprus, which is holding up all sanctions approval until the EU agrees a tougher line on Turkey in a dispute over energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean. Sanctions need all 27 EU states to agree.