OTTAWA — As conflict between rival governments and militias in Libya continues years after the Arab Spring, Canadian diplomats tasked with monitoring the situation are still stuck operating out of a neighbouring country.
An inspection last year of Canada’s missions to Libya and Tunisia found problems with having both operate out of the same building, according to documents the National Post obtained under access-to-information law. And as other countries considered moving embassies back to Tripoli despite the Libya’s instability, the Canadians worried they would be left out of important conversations on regional security.
A year after the “mission inspections” took place, the United Kingdom’s ambassador Frank Baker is now based in Libya, according to his own blog. “Only by living in Libya, as I do, and by meeting people from across the country can a diplomat truly understand Libya and the challenges we must face together,” he says on the British foreign ministry’s website.
Italy moved back in January 2017, while South Korea, Hungary and the Netherlands reportedly restored at least some of their respective operations in Tripoli last fall. Reuters reported in October that the European Union was planning a move back. The United States is, like Canada, still camped out in Tunis.
Global Affairs Canada won’t offer a timeline on Canada’s return, with spokeswoman Brittany Verhola-Fletcher saying, “Canada is committed to returning to Tripoli when a secure and stable environment has been restored.” She said an interview with the new Canadian ambassador to Libya, Hilary Childs-Adams, “is not possible at this time.”
Childs-Adams was in Tripoli to present her credentials less than a month ago, on March 25, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Reid.
Canada was part of a NATO-led coalition that, in 2011, intervened in a civil war that erupted after Arab Spring pro-democracy protests. The conflict ultimately led to the ouster and death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. But an outbreak of violence resumed in 2014 and most foreign embassies in Tripoli were evacuated. Commercial ties have dropped off, too: Canada’s annual merchandise exports fell from $153 million in 2012 to $17.1 million in 2016.
In 2014, a significant portion of the staff came back to Ottawa. The rest were stationed in Tunis.
An inspection completed in March 2017 found the mission was responding well to “a challenging context given the severe constraints on travel to Libya, the limited access to Libyan officials and contacts and the uncertainty with …read more