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23 Jun 2013 6:46 pm
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Libya 'ready to help Malta' with fuel importation

Libya 'ready to help Malta' with fuel importation

While oil exploration was a matter brought on the agenda of official talks with Libya, Malta was seeking an agreement on the importation of fuel, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today.

However, he did not want to commit himself to any details, limiting himself to explaining that even though oil exploration was on the government's mind, purchasing of oil was the priority.

"We want to reach an agreement on oil purchasing, however discussions are still in their infancy to reach a favourable agreement," Muscat said.

He also warned that Malta should not jump the gun when it comes to oil exploration: "The two countries must reach an agreement where common sense prevails."

A bone of contention between the two countries is the Medina Bank area for oil exploration, an area also claimed by Libya.

Accompanied by home affairs minister Manuel Mallia, energy ministry Konrad Mizzi, tourism minister Karmenu Vella and foreign affairs minister George Vella, Muscat led a delegation to Libya where he met Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan.

All ministers held bilateral meetings with their Libyan counterparts.

The Libyan Prime Minister hinted at Malta's interest in purchasing "petrol" from Libya. He said, that while Libya didn't have "refined petrol", it was "prepared to provide Malta with the needed amount".

Both sides discussed illegal immigration and border control. Muscat argued that Libya could not face this problem alone.

"Just as Malta cannot face this phenomenon alone, neither can Libya... this is exactly the tenet that Malta will follow at EU level," he said.

Issuing of entry visas was also discussed with Muscat expressing his wish to see more Libyans, "families and businessmen alike to come to Malta for work and pleasure". He also pointed out that Malta, as a member of the European Union, had rules and obligations to follow.

"The Maltese government will carry an overhaul of the visa regime, in line with EU regulations and obligations," he said.

On his part, Zeidan acknowledged that Malta, as a member of the European Union, had obligations to respect.

The Libyan prime minister, who has been invited for an official visit to Malta, said the relationship between the two countries would be based on cooperation, especially in investment and border security.

"Libya definitely relies on strong cooperation between both countries in order to achieve results and remove obstacles created by the previous regime," Zeidan said.

He reiterated his government's call for the unfreezing of assets. Heeding his call, Muscat said his government was committed in seeing that all possible help is provided for the unfreezing of Libyan assets, belonging to the Gaddafi family, "as long as this respected the democratic will of the people of Libya".

Muscat described the visit as a meeting between friends and expressed satisfaction over the "high level discussions" which took place.

"This was the platform to agreements which we hope will come into force in the coming months," he said.

Muscat said Zeidan had invited Maltese entrepreneurs to set up shop in Libya. On his next visit to the North African country, which he plans to do soon, Muscat will be accompanied by a business delegation.

"I also invite Libyan businesses to invest in Malta," Muscat added.

Both prime ministers addressed the press conference in their native language.

This is the first visit to Libya by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat since the March elections. At Mitiga Airport, a former military base, in Tripoli Muscat was also welcomed by Col Ali Faraj Alrabti, one of the Libyan pilots who defected to Malta during the Libya uprising.

Upon arriving at the Corinthia Bab Africa in Tripoli, journalists were met by a commotion outside the Tripoli hotel as security officers rushed to calm down the situation.