Malta and Libya on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding for combating irregular migration and consolidating bilateral relations.

This came during a visit by Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela to Tripoli in which he discussed irregular migration with his Libyan counterpart Fayez al-Sarraj.

This is the first foreign visit for Abela since he took office in January.

Abela also met top Libyan officials including Foreign Minister Mohamed Taha Siala and Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga, daily Malta Today reported.

During the talks, Sarraj praised bilateral relations between the two friendly countries and Malta’s support to the Libyan government.

Touching upon the latest developments in Libya, he stressed the need to defeat the aggressive offensive by warlord Khalifa Haftar and his militias.

For his part, Abela extended support to the Libyan government, adding that conflict should be resolved through dialogue.

The Libyan government has been under attack by Haftar’s forces since April 2019, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence. It launched Operation Peace Storm on March 26 to counter attacks on the capital.

Following the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya’s government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led political deal.

Malta has shut its ports to asylum seekers and migrants since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. However, tightened measures did not stop migrants from coming.

Arrivals of migrants in Malta have increased this year, with around 1,135 people entering as of March, compared to 136 at this point in 2019, according to the UN.

* Mahmoud Barakat contributed to this report from Ankara

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