Tuesday

24th May 2016

EU reviews safety of Libya diplomats

  • Ashton personally opened the Benghazi office on a visit to Libya last year (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The EU's foreign service is considering whether to temporarily close its office in Benghazi after the killing of the US ambassador to Libya in the city on Tuesday (11 September).

The small EU unit, a secure building protected by Hungarian private security firm Argus, hosts two locally-hired European External Action Service (EEAS) staff.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

EEAS chief Catherine Ashton opened it at the height of the Libya conflict in May last year as a sign of support for the then Benghazi-based rebel National Transitional Council, saying: "We are here for the long term ... We will be here to support you all the way."

One EU source told EUobserver on Wednesday: "A decision will have to be taken regarding the Benghazi office ... One solution would be to close it temporarily. But we must wait for more information."

Another EU contact said: "We have time. We don't need to switch off the lights right after this incident."

He added that "nobody is considering the closure of Tripoli," a bigger EEAS delegation in the Libyan capital headed by former Slovak diplomat Peter Zsoldos.

The EU sources noted that the security environment in Tripoli is "totally different" to the Benghazi-Sirte region, where the local population has a higher proportion of jihadists, including "about 300" individuals linked to Al-Qaeda.

They said some 70 fighters from the Ansar Al Sharia militant group attacked the US consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday night. US marines, local Libyan police and NTC forces "resisted for 25 to 30 minutes" before the compound was overrun.

It is unclear whether the US ambassador, 52-year-old Chris Stevens, died in a burning car while trying to escape, or whether he suffocated due to smoke in the consulate's safe room.

A US state department official and three other people were also killed. The EU sources said the three others were two US marines and a locally-hired US consular official.

The attack was linked to Muslim anger over a recent movie - entitled the "Innocence of Muslims" - by a US-based film-maker mocking the prophet Mohammed.

It also took place on the 21st anniversary of 9/11.

Meanwhile, photos of what appear to be Stevens' dead body - seen by this website - resemble images of the late Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi's body being manhandled by Libyan civilians in October last year.

For his part, US President Barack Obama on Wednesday sent two warships and a team of marines to the region. "Make no mistake, justice will be done," he told press in the White House garden.

Ashton said she is "deeply shocked" and urged Libyan authorities "to take all necessary measures without delay to protect the lives of all diplomats and foreign staff working in Libya."

UK foreign minister William Hague said the attacks are "a reminder of the continuing need to bring law and order to all parts of Libya."

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius called it a "terrorist attack," adding: "Despite this tragedy, we must not renounce our objective of building a free and democratic Libya."

Morsi visit amid crisis

The events come on the eve of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's visit to the EU capital on Thursday.

The recently-elected leader, from the Muslim Brotherhood party, is expected to seek pledges of billions of euros in financial aid.

The US embassy in Cairo was this week also pelted with rocks and molotov cocktails over the Innocence of Muslims film.

Morsi in a statement on his Facebook page said he "condemns in the strongest terms the attempt of a group to insult the place of the messenger, the prophet Mohammed," referring to the movie.

He also said Egypt is "responsible" for protecting foreign diplomatic staff.

He did not directly condemn the Benghazi murders, however.

EU defends Turkey deal in light of Greek court ruling

The EU Commission on Monday fended off suggestions a decision by a Greek apeals court not to send back a Syrian aslyum seeker to Turkey, because it is not safe, doesn not endanger the EU-Turkey deal.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesNew rules for posted workers - Better Protection or the End of Posting ?
  2. Innovators Under 35Meet MIT Technology Review's Innovators Under 35 Award Recipients from Belgium on 25 May, 6pm
  3. Open EuropeJoin the Brussels Brexit Debate on Wednesday, 25 May at 5:00 PM
  4. World VisionWhy The EU Needs to Put Children at the Centre of Emergencies - In Their Words
  5. ACCASustainability Reporting in Danger of Losing Its Momentum Says ACCA and CDSB
  6. CEDEC - Covenant of MayorsWebinar on 25 May - Electric Vehicles Development: The Role of Local Entities
  7. Dialogue PlatformDiversity as Heritage of Humanity! Join the “Colors of the World“ Show at the EP
  8. Centre Maurits CoppietersNew Responses to the Basque Peace Process? MEP Juaristi on Stateless Challenges Conference
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceImproving Cardiovascular Health Begins by Closing the Gap in Sex Disparities
  10. IPHRBrussels Talks to Take Stock of Human Rights in Turkmenistan
  11. World VisionCash-based Programming to Address Hunger in South Sudan:
  12. Belgrade Security ForumOpen Call for Applications! Join the Events Team at the 6th Belgrade Security Forum.

Latest News

  1. Terrorists likely stockpiling explosives in EU, says Europol
  2. EU navies to help Libya coastguard stop migrants
  3. Merkel casts doubt on Turkey visa-free travel
  4. EU and Poland in last minute talks on rule of law
  5. Tough challenges ahead for Austria's president
  6. Search for VW compensation larger in EU than in US
  7. EU 'relief' at far-right defeat in Austria
  8. EU defends Turkey deal in light of Greek court ruling