France and Libya

Presentation

Political relations

France is committed to the international community’s efforts to resolve the Libyan political crisis, following the decisive role it played in the success of the Libyan revolution.

Its ties with Libya were never severed. After our Embassy was closed in Tripoli in February 2011, a special representative for France at the National Transitional Council (NTC) was appointed in Benghazi. The French Embassy reopened in August 2011 in Tripoli. The Libyan Embassy in France was active throughout the Revolution. The Libyan Prime Minister visited Paris on 12 and 13 February 2013 accompanied by a large delegation of eight ministers and deputy ministers. The French Foreign Minister visited Tripoli on 23 April 2013 following the attack on the French Embassy, to express his support for our team and reaffirm France’s commitment in Libya. On 30 July 2014, France moved its diplomatic mission to Tunis.

Today, France is resolutely committed to resolving the political crisis in Libya. It fully supports United Nations mediation conducted by Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General and Presidency Council, resulting from the Skhirat Agreement, regarding its efforts to meet the people’s expectations. Only legitimate authorities exercising effective control over all of Libyan territory will be able to address the challenges of terrorism and migration that Libya faces today. France is prepared for the adoption of UN or EU sanctions against individuals obstructing the political dialogue and the stabilization of the country. France supported the adoption of European sanctions against three people who disrupted political dialogue on 1 April 2016. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development visited Tripoli on 16 April 2016 to support Prime Minister Sarraj with whom he maintains regular dialogue.

Visits

In 2016

  • 27 September 2016: Visit by the Libyan Prime Minister, Fayez Sarraj, to France; Meeting with the President of the Republic, Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, and Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence.
  • 16 April: Jean-Marc Ayrault visited Tripoli on 16 April 2016 with his German counterpart, to support Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj.

In 2015

  • 24 August: Meeting between the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development and his Libyan counterpart, Mohammed al-Dairi.

In 2014

  • March 6: Participation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development in the Rome Conference on International Support for Libya.
  • 14 October: Meeting between the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development and his Libyan counterpart, Mohammed al-Dairi.

In 2013

  • 5, 6 and 7 December: Participation of Mr Ali Zeidan, Libyan Prime Minister, accompanied by Mr Mohamed Abdel Aziz, Libyan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in the Elysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa.
  • 14 November: Participation of the French Foreign Minister in the second Regional Ministerial Conference on Border Security in Rabat, which focused on Libya.
  • 23 October: Visit of Mr Mohamed Fitouri Sualim, Libyan Minister of Labour and Retraining, to Paris.
  • 14-20 October: Visit of Mr Moussa Harim, Libyan Deputy Minister of Culture, to Paris and Marseille.
  • 17-23 June: Participation of Mr Mohammed al-Barghati, Libyan Minister of Defence, and of Mr Abdelkader Mohamed Ahmed, Libyan Minister of Transport, in the Paris Air Show.
  • 14-16 June: Working visit by Mr Mohamed Fitouri Sualim, Libyan Minister of Labour and Retraining, to France (Paris and Tours).
  • 23 April: Visit to Tripoli by Mr Laurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • 12-13 February: Visit to Paris of the Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, together with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Telecommunications and Health, and the Deputy Ministers of the Interior, Justice, Transport and Oil.
  • 12 February: Paris International Ministerial Conference on Support to Libya, on security, justice and the rule of law, co-chaired by the French Foreign Minister and his Libyan counterpart.
  • 5 February: Visit to Tripoli by Mr Kader Arif, French Minister Delegate for Veterans.
  • 12-15 January: Visit to France (Paris and Marseille) by Dr Al Amin El Habib, Libyan Minister of Culture and Civil Society.
  • 12-13 January: Visit to Tripoli by Ms Hélène Conway-Mouret, Minister Delegate for French Nationals Abroad.

In 2012

  • 10-16 October: Visit to France (Paris and Bordeaux) by Mr Sadat Albadri, Head of the Tripoli Local Council, and by mayors of districts.
  • 21-24 May: Visit to Paris by Mr Abderrahmane Habil, Libyan Minister of Culture and Civil Society.
  • 20-21 March: Visit to Tripoli of the French Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Mr Philippe Marini.
  • 12-15 March: Visit to Paris of Mr Fawzi Abdelali, Libyan Minister of the Interior.
  • 24-26 February: Visit to Libya (Tripoli, Misrata, Zintan and Benghazi) by Mr Gérard Longuet, French Minister of Defence.
  • 29 January: Visit to Tripoli of Mr Thierry Mariani, French Minister of Transport.

Economic relations

The development of bilateral relations and the increasing openness of Libya after the revolution have boosted economic and commercial exchanges. France was Libya’s second-largest customer in 2014, up three spots from the 2013 ranking. Our trade relations are characterized by a structural and fluctuating trade deficit, while 99% of our imports consist of oil.

There are many opportunities for French businesses in all sectors: oil, transport, health, finance, telecommunications, water and sanitation, energy, housing, urban planning and development, industry and agrifood.

Yet Libya remains a difficult terrain. Poor decision-making and administrative capacities in Libya, and prevailing security conditions, do not facilitate access to the Libyan market. The deterioration in the political and security situation since the summer of 2014 has made our trade a great deal more complicated. Preserving the unity of Libyan economic and financial institutions (Central Bank, Libyan National Oil Corporation-NOC), which are torn between the two camps, is also crucial to this trade.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

French cooperation in Libya was restarted in November 2011. Between 2012 and 2014, French cooperation benefited from the expansion of activities of the Institut Français in Tripoli and the opening of a second Institut Français in Benghazi (it became dormant in 2013 for security reasons). French cooperation in Libya has been based on four main thrusts:

  • Accompany the Libyans in their commitment to strengthen the rule of law and build the new Libya’s institutions (training of elected officials and civil servants);
  • Support training at university (programme to train 300 teachers of French; Libyan government scholarship programme) and in the following sectors: media, heritage and archaeology, national archives, cultural engineering, health and community governance;
  • Propose French technical expertise in the areas of health, water/environment, transport, public finance, sports, animal health, private-sector companies;
  • Support youth and the structuring of civil society.

Since July 2014, our cooperation programmes in Libya have been suspended for security reasons. They will be resumed as soon as the political crisis in Libya has ended, a national unity government is formed and the security situation allows.

Certain programmes have however been maintained throughout the period 2014-2016: support for youth and associations, training of local senior officials in Paris and Tunis (ENA/ACTED), training of teachers of French. In 2016, specialized training cycles were organised again in France for Libyan archaeologists and heritage experts. France provided its support in medicines for several hospitals including in Tripoli and Benghazi and provided $1 million in stabilization funds (UNDP aid mechanism) to conduct short-term development projects in Libya.

Other cooperation

France has also supported Libya in strengthening the national security forces, before suspending this cooperation in the summer of 2014.

In the area of internal security, a contract was signed in October 2013 between CIVIPOL (consultancy of the French Interior Ministry) and the Libyan Interior Ministry to train 1, 000 police officers in democratic crowd management.

As regards defence, our cooperation developed with the navy and the air force in particular. In January 2014, we signed an agreement for the sale of a two-seater Mirage FI, which also included the training of Libyan pilots and technicians in France. Many officers attended the best French military schools.

As France is particularly concerned about the worsening security situation in Libya, defence and security issues will be central to French-Libyan cooperation when it resumes. France undertook to form a presidential guard unit commanded by General Nakoua, under the authority of the Presidency Council.

Updated: 3 January 2017

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