Philip Hammond in unannounced visit to Libya
Philip Hammond has made a surprise visit to Tripoli to meet the newly-elected Government of National Accord in Libya.
The UN-backed unity government this morning released a picture of the Foreign Secretary meeting Prime Minister-designate Fayez Sarraj in the nation’s capital.
The talks mark the first visit of a Foreign Secretary to Libya since 2011. According to news agency AFP, Mr Hammond will hold a press conference after meeting with officials.
Mr Hammond becomes the latest European foreign minister to visit Libya after his counterparts in Italy, France and Germany.
“Mr Hammond is in Tripoli, he is meeting the presidential council (chaired by Sarraj) and will hold a press conference after the meetings,” a media adviser for the Government of the National Accord told AFP.
It comes amid the latest reports that the UK is preparing to send up to 1,000 troops to help train Libyan military personnel defeat Islamic State militants in the war torn country.
Claims that Britain was planning to send military personnel to the north African country emerged last month, after members of the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) were tipped off during a visit to Libya.
Air Vice Marshal Edward Stringer will fly to Italy this week to tell fellow commanders of the proposals to deploy the troops to help train the Libyan military defeat Islamic State, according to the Daily Mail.
The FAC said last month troops would operate in non-combat roles as trainers for the Libyan army and to provide security for the newly-formed government.
Italy had been assembling a non-combat force of 6,000 people, including French and British military personnel, to help train Libyan forces to tackle the Isis contingent in Libya.
But the Libyan government is said to be against bringing in foreign assistance to help tackle Isis in the region for fears it would exacerbate divisions in the country.
“Even though there are Isis fighters all along the coast they seem more worried about the impact that foreign fighters would have on trying to deal with the situation with the east of the country,” a source told the Times last week.
FAC chair Crispin Blunt said sending over troops without a clear plan could exacerbate the turmoil in the north African country.
“The idea that you could put a training force of that size in the country and it would not be seen as Western intervention is the view of someone living on cloud cuckoo land,” he said.
“We would find ourselves a target for those who wish the West ill.
“Unless there is a clear policy objective explaining how troops would deliver the desired outcome, it will almost certainly make things worse.”
An MoD spokesperson said: “The UK continues to work with international partners on how best to support the new Libyan government.
“All planning has been focussed on training Libyan Security Forces to provide their own security to the Government and Libyan people.
“No decisions have been made about the future deployment of any British military forces.”
Air Vice Marshal Stringer is due to meet with his Italian and French counterparts this Thursday at a conference where they will discuss topics including Libya.
The Mail reports that the official offer of assistance will come at a later meeting.