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European envoys in Libya to back unity government

TRIPOLI – A group of European ambassadors flew into Libya’s capital Thursday for the first time since 2014 to support the unity government’s struggle to end years of chaos exploited by jihadists.

French ambassador Antoine Sivan, British envoy Peter Millet of Britain and Spain’s Jose Antonio Bordallo held talks with the Government of National Accord at the Tripoli naval base where it has set up operations.

It is the first such visit since European Union member states closed their embassies in 2014 because of unrest.

“Meeting GNA members to reaffirm strong UK commitment to support their efforts to restore peace,” Millet said on Twitter.

World powers see the unity government as vital to tackling a raging jihadist insurgency and rampant people smuggling in the North African state.

Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the unity cabinet, arrived in Tripoli by sea with a naval escort two weeks ago and has since won the support of key institutions that control Libya’s wealth.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni also visited Libya on Tuesday and said that embassies would be reopened in the capital in “the near future”.

European nations in particular have been alarmed by the expansion of the Islamic State jihadist group in Libya, just 300 kilometres (185 miles) away from Italy across the Mediterranean.

The oil-rich country has had two rival administrations since mid-2014 when a militia alliance overran Tripoli, setting up its own authority and forcing the recognised parliament to flee to the remote east.

Sarraj has not yet received the endorsement of the country’s internationally recognised parliament, and the head of a rival Tripoli-based administration has refused to recognise his authority.

The recognised legislature is expected to meet on Monday for a vote of confidence in the unity government.

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