TRIPOLI, Libya -- Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis described his visit to Libya in terms of a restart of bilateral relations along with the restart of the country itself, addressing interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah during a joint press conference in Tripoli on Monday.
"I feel great joy that my presence in Libya combines two restarts, that of the country itself and that of our bilateral relations," Mitsotakis said.
In accepting his counterpart's invitation to Libya, the Greek prime minister said, "My main purpose was to highlight the reopening of the Greek embassy as a landmark of the dynamic restart of Greek-Libyan relations, and to convey a message of support to Libya's efforts towards peace and progress."
Both in the framework of the EU and that of the UN, Mitsotakis said, "Greece will stand by you on the path to free natpional elections," and added that "it is time we leave behind us everything that tried our relations in the past." The two countries have had a long history of shared business interests, he also noted, articularly in energy, oil, sea transport, and health that could be expanded to include other sectors including electric mobility.
He stressed also that a prerequisite of improved relations includes the immediate and complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Libya and, for Greece in particular, "the annulment of illegal documents that some people promote as international agreements but for us have no legal validity," referring to the maritime zone delimitation memoranda signed between the Tripoli-based government with Turkey in November 2019 that further strained relations with Greece.
In 2019, Turkey singed an agreement with a Libyan faction to delineate the maritime boundaries between the two countries, a move slammed by Cyprus and Greece as a serious breach of international law that disregards the lawful rights of other eastern Mediterranean countries.
Mitsotakis welcomed Libya's willingness to discuss the delimitation of mutual marine zones, and said the country was not alone, but that EU stood by it. In terms of bilateral relations, he concluded, "Geography sets the relations of two countries, not the lines some may mark on maps," as he expressed the hope that Libya and Greece build their relations on sincerity, willingess for dialog and respect of international laws.
Opening the press conference, Dbeibah referred to the role played by the prime minister's father, the late premier Constantine Mitsotakis, in improving relations between the two countires, and expressed appreciation for the current improvement in bilateral relations.
Dbeibah - who heads a government of national unity backed by the UN to lead the country to elections in December - said that the two countries had a long history of economic, commercial and humanitarian relations, while presently he stressed his commitment to good relations with Greece.
In that framework, he said, lay the invitation for the reopening of the embassy in Tripoli, followed by that of the consulate in Benghazi. "We also hope for improvement in our relationship in the trade sector as well," he underlined.
In references to Libyan-Turkish relations, Dbeibah said "we encourage talks between Greece and Turkey, and between Libya and Turkey, to delineate the economic zones and to continue collaboration in the Mediterranean region."
Libya seeks good relations with all countries in the region, the Libyan prime minister noted, and it seeks agreements that protected its interests. "We take care of the interests of our country and of our people," he said.
Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. The country was in recent years split between rival east- and west-based administrations, each backed by different armed groups and foreign governments.