German FM visits Libya ahead of G8, EU presidencies
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier flew to Libya at the start of a five-country tour of North Africa before Berlin assumes the European Union and G8 presidencies in January.
The trip running through Saturday will also take in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania and focus on energy and immigration issues as well as modernization efforts in the region.
Steinmeier will open a three-day German-African Business Association conference in the eastern city of Benghazi Tuesday before going to Tripoli where he is to meet his Libyan counterpart Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Shalqam.
Along with economic ties, the minister hopes to underscore Libya's acceptance into the international fold since it renounced weapons of mass destruction in 2003, ministry sources said.
Germany will take over the rotating, six-month EU presidency and the year-long presidency of the Group of Eight industrialized nations at the start of next year.
Steinmeier has stepped up his travel schedule in the run-up to the handover, and he said it was important to reach out to the EU's southern neighbors and the Arab world in the process.
"I believe that forward-looking foreign policy should not only focus on current conflicts but must also look at future development trends," he recently told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Steinmeier is also expected to address immigration while in the region, which is considered a transit route for destitute Africans bound for Europe.
Faced with a rising wave of arrivals in overcrowded boats, southern European nations led by Spain and Italy have increased their calls for a common European immigration policy.
Steinmeier is accompanied on the trip by a delegation of energy company executives keen to close oil and gas deals. Representatives of solar energy firms will offer German-made equipment to the sun-drenched region.
The minister, who took office one year ago as part of Chancellor Angela Merkel's power-sharing government, has put energy security at the top of his policy agenda.
His travel schedule has focused heavily on major oil-and-gas-producing regions including the Gulf states, Russia and most recently Central Asia.