Libya Conference Focuses On Elections, Security

Participants in the German forum on Libya.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Berlin for talks Wednesday with German leaders and to take part in a conference on Libya's political future.

Germany and the United Nations are hosting the Berlin conference, seeking to build on earlier efforts to bring about a lasting halt in fighting in Libya and support a stable government.

"We have an opportunity that we have not had in recent years to really help Libya move forward as a safe, secure, sovereign country," Blinken said after a morning meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Speaking to reporters alongside Maas, Blinken said there was consensus on what steps to take to best help Libya, mainly ensuring the implementation of a cease-fire and the departure of foreign forces from the country.

U.S. Special Envoy for Libya Richard Norland told reporters Monday that the conference would provide momentum for steps that need to be taken soon for elections to be held in December, including establishing a constitutional and legal basis for the vote.

Political instability

Libya has experienced political instability since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi from power. Rival governments operated in separate parts of the country for years before a cease-fire deal in October that included a demand for all foreign fighters and mercenaries to leave Libya within 90 days, or about 3 months.

"On the foreign forces, you're quite right that forces have not departed yet, and our basic position is we should not wait until after the elections to try to make some progress on this goal," Norland said. "One of the reasons elections are so important is so that a fully empowered, credible, legitimate Libyan government can turn to foreign actors and say, 'It's time to take your troops out.'"

Norland said those attending the Berlin conference would also discuss "destabilizing actions by armed groups and terrorism," citing recent attacks in Libya claims by Islamic State militants.

Holocaust awareness

Blinken and Maas are due to reconvene Wednesday to focus on the need to counter those who are denying or distorting the Holocaust.

Blinken said Tuesday they would discuss "how we can ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust are never forgotten."

U.S. Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Cherrie Daniels told reporters Monday that promoting greater education about the Holocaust, its consequences and its origins will help government officials and the public "recognize modern manifestations of anti-Semitism and even other forms of hatred" and push back against them.

"As knowledge of the Holocaust wanes, nefarious individuals, organizations, and occasionally governments engage in Holocaust denial and distortion for all manner of ends," Daniels said.

Islamic State

Defeating Islamic State will be the focus of another conference co-hosted by Blinken and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio as Blinken visits Rome on a later stop during his European trip. Blinken is also due to take part in a ministerial meeting in Italy concerning Syria and the humanitarian needs in that country.

The European trip also takes Blinken to France to meet with President Emmanuel Macron, following up on U.S. President Joe Biden's recent meetings with allies in the region to boost trans-Atlantic relations.

"This is really an opportunity for Secretary Blinken to reiterate the president's message and speak with our oldest ally about areas of cooperation, including global security, again, the pandemic's -- recovery from the pandemic, and repairing and modernizing our alliances," Acting Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker told reporters Monday.

Blinken is also scheduled to visit the Vatican, where Reeker said the agenda for meetings includes combatting climate change and human trafficking.

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