Blinken says U.S. 'actively' working to re-establish diplomatic presence in Libya
The United States is "actively" working on re-establishing a diplomatic presence in Libya, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday, although he declined to provide an exact time on when the U.S. embassy can be reopened.
Libya has had precious little peace since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi and paved the way for a 2014 split between rival eastern and western factions. The last major bout of conflict ended in 2020 with a ceasefire.
Washington shut its embassy in Tripoli in 2014 and moved to its mission to neighbouring Tunis following intensifying violence between rival factions. U.S. Special Envoy for Libya, Richard Norland, has operated out of the Tunisian capital, and took occasional trips into Libya.
A September 2012 assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, since closed, killed four Americans including the then U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.
"I can't give you a timetable other than to say that this is something we're very actively working on. I want to see us be able to re-establish an ongoing presence in Libya," Blinken said at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing.
Blinken did not provide any details on the active work he referred to.
Assistant Secretary Barbara Leaf, top diplomat for the Middle East and North Africa, is currently touring the region, traveling to Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, and Tunisia March 15-25.
In Libya, the State Department said, Leaf will meet with senior Libyan officials "to underscore U.S. support for UN-facilitated efforts to promote consensus leading to elections in 2023."
"There's also an important moment where through the work of the UN envoy, there may be, and I emphasize maybe, a path forward to moving Libya in a better direction including getting election for legitimate government and our diplomats are deeply engaged in that," Blinken added.
The OPEC member country has been locked in political stalemate since late 2021 when a scheduled election was canceled because of disputes over the rules and the eastern-based parliament, the House of Representatives, withdrew support from the interim government.
Peacemaking efforts have focused on getting the House of Representatives and the High State Council to agree on a constitutional basis for elections and on voting rules.
The United Nations' special envoy for Libya last month moved to take charge of a stalled political process to enable elections that are seen as the path to resolving years of conflict.