Begin typing your search...
Merkel, Kurz disagree over Mediterranean refugee rescue mission
Germany would back a revival of Operation Sophia, the EU-led naval operation that ran until the vessels were withdrawn last year, Merkel said at a joint press conference with Kurz after they held a meeting in the German Chancellery on Monday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel met her visiting Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz here, with the two sides disagreeing over a rescue mission to save refugees in the Mediterranean Sea.
Germany would back a revival of Operation Sophia, the EU-led naval operation that ran until the vessels were withdrawn last year, Merkel said at a joint press conference with Kurz after they held a meeting in the German Chancellery on Monday, Xinhua news agency reported.
However, Kurz expressed strong opposition to Merkel''s idea, saying that Operation Sophia had merely led to human traffickers earning more money from their illegal activities based on the Libyan coast and to more refugee deaths.
The Austrian chancellor is a proponent of strict immigration controls, and once criticized Merkel''s 2015 open-door policy to refugees. However, he praised Germany''s efforts at promoting peace in Libya, including the summit last month at which all sides agreed to uphold a UN arms embargo in the war-torn country.
Merkel said a number of rescue ships operated by non-governmental organisations were currently operating in the region. An EU operation that focused on fighting arms smuggling as well as saving refugees would be an improvement.
Despite all the shortcomings, there should be cooperation with the Libyan coastguard, which had helped reduce the number of refugees reaching Europe by this route, she said.
The EU launched Operation Sophia in 2015 to combat human trafficking and assist Libya in establishing an effective coastguard.
Josep Borrell, EU''s top diplomat, called last month for EU naval vessels to come back towards the Libyan coast to enforce the arms embargo in the region. Kurz disagreed with Borrell''s suggestion, arguing that the embargo could be better controlled from the air.