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Libya will do its best on Malta oil deal, says PM

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan greets Lawrence Gonzi in Tripoli yesterday. Photo: Jeremy Wonnacott/DOI

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan greets Lawrence Gonzi in Tripoli yesterday. Photo: Jeremy Wonnacott/DOI

Newly elected Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan yesterday said his administration would do the best it could to deliver on Malta’s request to have a preferential energy deal with the oil-rich neighbour.

“On energy, I have discussed with the [Maltese] Prime Minister that Libya will do what is possible, within its limits and possibilities that the Libyan side can do. We will do the best that we can,” Mr Zeidan said through a translator, at a joint press conference with Lawrence Gonzi in Tripoli. The declaration is promising but less encouraging than the feedback that appeared to emerge from Tripoli earlier this year.

Finance Minister Tonio Fenech, who is also responsible for Enemalta, had said in May that the then National Transitional Government had shown “strong signs of goodwill” to strike an oil deal at favourable rates.

Dr Gonzi yesterday said he hoped Malta would be able to strike a deal in the future as part of its policy to diversify its energy sources.

Oil exploration was also discussed in the context of the disputed territorial waters; a sensitive issue which eluded agreement with the former regime, despite more than two decades of talks.

This was Dr Gonzi’s second visit to the post-Gaddafi Libya and the first meeting with Mr Zeidan, 62, who assumed office late last month after being voted in by the Libyan National Assembly.

A former career diplomat, Mr Zeidan had defected in 1980 and joined an international opposition front before becoming a Geneva-based advocate for human rights in Libya.

Dr Gonzi said he was proud to be one of the first leaders to meet the first elected Prime Minister of the new Libya and suggested that the friendship and cooperation agreement the two countries had be enhanced in light of the country’s new status as a democratic state.

The meeting also dealt with illegal immigration, another long-standing diplomatic concern for the two countries.

On this, Mr Zeidan said his administration was willing to deal with the problem vigorously but set the issue in the context of the country’s overall security concern.

More than a year after dictator Muammar Gaddafi was killed, the country’s biggest challenge outlined by Mr Zeidan himself in one of his first speeches, remained internal security and the establishment and development of a professional army and police force.

He said officials from the defence and interior ministries had just received a team of experts from the EU, who were in Tripoli last week precisely to discuss the matter.

In 10 days another technical meeting in London should pave the way for a ministerial conference where his government could discuss concrete measures on how major European partners could help Libya.

Libya is also looking to release assets of the former dictator, his family and associates, which were frozen early into the Libyan conflict last year in line with EU and UN-led sanctions.

Dr Gonzi underscored that he had personally raised this point with the EU arguing this issue should be given priority to help Libya with the reconstruction.

He invited Libyan authorities to send a team of people to Malta who would be able to review the frozen assets and then move to clear these in line with international law.

“Malta is more than willing to release these assets in the shortest time possible,” Dr Gonzi said.

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