Tuesday

18th Jun 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

Libya: hounding of migrants must stop

Sub-Saharan migrants in Libya face appalling treatment. But despite its fine words, the EU's sole concern is to keep them out of Europe.

News in Brief

  1. Romanian ex-PM frontrunner to head new liberal group
  2. France, Germany and Spain in fighter jet deal
  3. Tusk grilled in Poland over role as PM
  4. Italy is 'most credible' US partner in EU, says Salvini
  5. EU blames Sudan junta for killings and rapes
  6. Report: EU may suspend Turkey customs union talks
  7. Swiss stock exchange could lose EU access in July
  8. Austria's Strache will not take up EU parliament seat

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. Macron and Mogherini decline to back US accusation on Iran
  2. EU summit must give effective answer on migration
  3. Spain's Garcia set to be next Socialist leader in parliament
  4. Erdogan mocks Macron amid EU sanctions threat
  5. The most dangerous pesticide you've never heard of
  6. 'Russian sources' targeted EU elections with disinformation
  7. Top EU jobs summit dominates This WEEK
  8. EP parties planning 'coalition agenda' ahead of jobs summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  2. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  5. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  10. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  11. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  12. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us