Worried Europe set to help Libya secure its porous border
BRUSSELS - EU foreign ministers agreed Thursday to help Libya tighten control over its porous 4,000-kilometre land border blamed for trafficking of all kinds.
"A civilian mission to build Libyan capacities in border security and management is not only important for Libya, but for the entire region," said European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who was hosting talks between the 27 ministers.
"The EU's plans have been discussed in detail with the Libyan authorities and their ownership is key for us," she said.
The ministers agreed a so-called "crisis management concept" to help border management in Libya, the first step in setting up a civilian security mission to be launched "as soon as possible."
"We hope (to launch) at the latest before the summer," said a senior European Union official who asked not to be named.
Libya's 2,500-mile land border with Algeria, Niger, Sudan and Chad was closed by the authorities in December and its arid south declared a military zone in response to the crisis in Mali.
Islamist rebels active in Mali are believed to be made up in part of fighters recruited by former Libyan leader Moamer Gathafi and who fled the country following his October 2011 death.
There has also been a massive flow of arms from Libya.
Once formally set up, the initial EU mission is to last for two years with training to start in Tripoli but perhaps extended to other locations.
European experts will help Libyan authorities enhance border security by advising, mentoring and training, and in a later stage help them to improve sea and air aspects also.