G7 foreign ministers’ meeting to discuss Libya

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Foreign ministers from the G7 group of nations will discuss the threat of a resurgence in Libya’s civil war at a meeting in western France on Friday, as world powers scrambled to defuse a dangerous escalation in the oil producer’s power struggle.

A military advance towards Tripoli and Libya’s UN backed government by eastern commander Khalifa Haftar has taken the United Nations by surprise, just as its secretary general was in the capital to plan a peace conference later this month.

Shortly before the summit began, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the G7 was monitoring the situation with a great deal of concern.

“Libya is likely to be at the heart of exchanges today and tomorrow. It will be looked at in detail, hopefully to allow us to move forward and avoid the situation getting worse,” a senior French diplomat said.

Concern over Libya’s stability is heightened by continuing political tensions around Europe over migration from north Africa, despite the fact that the numbers of new arrivals in Europe via the central Mediterranean have plummeted.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian welcomed his counterparts from the club of big rich nations under a dull grey sky in Brittany, for a meeting overshadowed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s absence and Britain’s Brexit meltdown.

French diplomats say Paris has scaled back its ambitions for France’s presidency of the club of big rich countries, after US President Donald Trump threw last year’s summit in Canda into disarray, backing out of a joint communique and firing barbs at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The French diplomat sought to downplay Pompeo’s snub saying: “We’re working well with the Americans. Yes, we have differences on some subjects, but that isn’t holding back the quality of our dialogue.”

Workers at dawn had furiously scrubbed away at graffiti spray-painted onto buildings near the secure zone in Dinard that attacked capitalism and President Emmanuel Macron.

The slogans screamed “Thieving banks”, “Revolution” and “No to the G7”, mirroring the anger vented across France in five months of anti-government “yellow vest” protests fueled by perceptions of a growing rich-poor divide and aloof politicians.

The summit is expected to result in three joint statements on cyber security, sexual violence against women in armed conflict and trafficking in the Sahel region, and not too much wrangling over issues where there is less consensus such as Iran and Russia.

Britain’s Hunt said he would use the summit to call on his European counterparts to support his government’s request for a short delay to Britain’s exit from the EU.

British Prime Minister Theresa May wrote to Brussels on Friday asking for a delay of Brexit until up to June 30, while saying she aims to get Britain out of the EU earlier to avoid it participating in European elections.

“What we are looking for is to avoid a long extension,” Hunt said. “We are a democracy with a hung parliament, so it’s not easy.”

Hunt said the G7 was proof Britain would not play a diminished international role after Brexit.

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