European Union, Libya, end visa strife

March 28th, 2010 - 7:21 am ICT by IANS  

Sirte/London, March 28 (DPA) The European Union and Libya have ended their visa strife as Libya late Saturday said it had lifted travel restrictions against EU citizens, according to media reports.
The Libyan Foreign Ministry confirmed the lifting of restrictions in a statement, according to Libya’s state Jana news agency cited by BBC and Al-Jazeera broadcasters.

The Spanish European Union presidency Friday expressed confidence that Libya would “immediately” lift travel restrictions it had placed on Europeans, following Switzerland’s decision to cancel a travel ban on blacklisted Libyans.

Spain expressed “satisfaction” over the Swiss decision and “deplored” problems that the Swiss ban had caused to Libyans, the Foreign Ministry said in a communique.

Ongoing negotiations on a framework association agreement between the EU and Libya were aimed at increasing mobility between the two partners, the ministry pointed out.

Libya had insisted on the EU apologizing for the row, something that Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos had agreed would be done during a recent visit to Tripoli, the Libyan ambassador to Spain said earlier this month.

Switzerland said Wednesday it was prepared to lift a travel ban it had imposed in January on 188 Libyan officials, including leader Moamer Gaddafi, for entry into the 25-member Schengen zone.

The move infuriated Libya, but also angered Schengen states who saw it as an unjustified escalation of a bilateral row.

The spat between Libya and Switzerland dates back to 2008, when Gaddafi’s son, Hannibal, was arrested in Geneva, allegedly for mistreating his domestic help. The charges were later dropped but Libya retaliated by arresting two Swiss men on visa charges.

The crisis assumed a EU-wide dimension in early 2010. As Switzerland placed Gaddafi and other top officials on the Schengen blacklist, Libya responded by saying it would stop issuing visas to citizens from all Schengen-area countries.

The Schengen agreements are applied in all EU countries except Britain, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania, plus in non-EU members Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

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