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Maltese soldiers help in Libyan border operations

‘Malta military missions do not infringe neutrality’ - minister

Foreign Minister George Vella

Foreign Minister George Vella

Foreign Minister George Vella told the House Foreign and European Affairs Committee yesterday that members of the Maltese armed forcesserving abroad – whether performing military or civil duties – were not infringing Malta’s neutrality and were acting according to the EU’s policy on security and defence.

Dr Vella said that three members of the Armed Forces of Malta are in Libya assisting in operations to secure land and sea borders under cooperation programmes launched by the US and other governments. This was of interest to Malta because effective border controls affected the flow of immigrants some of whom could eventually end up in Malta.

The minister also spoke of the situation in Libya and said he was still hopeful that the country would succeed in its transition to democracy and institution building. Malta was also helping in this regard.

Libyans were to come to Malta to learn English and technical subjects at MCAST.

Dr Vella said Maltese military personnel were also involved in patrolling the Somali coast against pirats. The next contingent of 24 Maltese volunteer soldiers had been chosen and was undergoing training before performing joining a Dutch vessel, as was the case in previous operations.

On the issue of whether the Syrian rebels should be armed, Dr Vella said that the EU states, including Malta did not vote to supply arms to rebels. What had happened was that they failed to agree on extending the arms embargo. Certain countries had already been supplying arms. 

Malta was also keeping back from joining the lobby which wanted to declare  Hezbollah as a terrorist organization because one could draw a long list of terrorist groups in the area and also because relations with Lebanon could be affected. He added that one should not lose the focus on the whole political and military situation in Syria and the Middle East. He hoped that diplomatic attempts by US Secretary of State John Kerry would bear results.

On climate change, Dr Vella said that Malta would not necessarily have to accept what other countries approved from the Kyoto protocol because Malta had its limitations which had to be respected by others.

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