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Foreign Minister holding visa talks in Libya

File picture - Foreign Minister Tonio Borg and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini (left) greet Libyan Foreign Minister Mousa Kousa.

File picture - Foreign Minister Tonio Borg and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini (left) greet Libyan Foreign Minister Mousa Kousa.

Foreign Minister Tonio Borg is in Tripoli for talks with senior Libyan officials on the current controversy over the withholding of visas issued by Schengen area countries.

The controversy erupted in the middle of last month after Switzerland issued a Schengen blacklist of 188 senior Libyan officials, including Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Maltese workers have been among those barred entry to Libya. Workers who were already in Libya have had their stays extended as far as their visas allowed, because they could not be replaced by other workers. However, a worker currently in Libya told timesofmalta.com that he feared that his employer would bring in workers from non-Schengen countries if the dispute dragged on.

Malta and Italy have led European criticism of the Swiss blacklist decision and have jointly held meetings with Libyan Foreign Minister Mousa Kousa.

Both countries want to preserve the strong trade links they have with Libya. Apart from the large number of Maltese working in Libya, Malta between 2004 and 2008 exported €341m worth of products to Libya.

There is also considerable Libyan investment in Malta. Earlier this week, Libyan aircraft maintenance firm Medavia announced a €10.5m investment in a new hangar and other facilities at the aviation park in Safi.

LIBYA SAYS IT IS SEEKING SOLUTION

Meanwhile, Libya has complained that even the Libyan president of the U.N. General Assembly is among the officials listed on the Schengen blacklist and cannot travel to most European countries. Foremer Libyan Foreign Minister Ali Abdussalam Treki was appointed president of the General Assembly since last September.

The Libyan Ambassador to the U.N., Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham said Libya was calling for an end to the visa ban for the people on the list and for both sides to resolve the dispute through arbitration mediated by a neutral country.

"We could have a solution, not to escalate everything," he told reporters in New York. "We want a solution."

Libyan relations with Switzerland broke down in mid-2008 with the arrest of a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in a Geneva hotel on charges of mistreating two domestic servants.Those charges have since been dropped.

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