Merkel: Obama, EU allies pledge to support Libya unity government

Options for dealing with the Islamic State presence in Libya and jointly reinforcing the authority of a new, UN-backed unity government was the main focus of talks between US President Barack Obama and four key European allies on Monday.

During his second and final day in Hanover, Germany, Obama held talks with the leaders of four European nations: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande.

Merkel gave a brief statement after the talks, saying that the five nations would "do everything to work together" to support the new government, which arrived in Libya last month but has not yet secured approval from the elected parliament in the eastern city of Tobruk.

Merkel added that the leaders had not discussed a potential deployment by the NATO military alliance, pointing to the so-called Sophia operation against migrant smugglers, which is already active off the Libyan coast. 

Obama, who boarded Airforce One shortly after the talks concluded to return to the US, recently said that failing to plan for the aftermath of Moamer Gaddafi's fall was the greatest mistake of his presidency.

His departure from Germany marked the close of one of Obama's final tours as US president, which included stops in Saudi Arabia and Britain.

In a speech delivered earlier Monday, Obama announced the deployment of an additional 250 troops to Syria to support local forces in the fight against Islamic State militants, who have a foothold in the war-torn country and neighbouring Iraq.

Obama also called on EU leaders to step up NATO's military engagement in Islamic State territory.

"I think it is clear that everyone has to become involved, but the emphasis today was very much on a political solution," Merkel said.

UN-backed peace talks in Geneva, which got under way in February after global leaders agreed to implement a truce, stalled last week when the opposition formally suspended its participation.

The conversation was also expected to turn to Russia's role in the Ukraine conflict and continued efforts to fully implement the Minsk agreement.

Obama was expected to press his European allies - particularly Germany - to increase their defence spending and boost their military presence along NATO's eastern border to counter an increasingly aggressive Russia.

Germany's defence budget falls significantly short of the 2 per cent of gross domestic product expected of NATO member states.

Last update: Tue, 28/06/2016 - 17:25

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