Prime Minister Robert Abela called for an urgent political solution to the conflict in Libya in a virtual address to the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday. 

Abela devoted the largest part of his address to the North African conflict, following a pandemic which he said had posted another serious obstacle to the wellbeing of already-vulnerable civilian populations. 

He called for a permanent ceasefire to enable talks to resume with a view to a successful political transition under the auspices of the UN, as well as economic reforms to enhance the governance of Libya's institutions. 

"This will enable Libya to address challenges related to its already strained healthcare services, worn thin by the ongoing nine-year conflict, to the detriment of Libya and the Libyan People," Abela said.

"At the same time, we must also ensure that all actors found violating international humanitarian law and human rights in Libya will be held accountable.

"This will send a clear message to all involved in the proxy war playing out in Libya that their impunity will not go unanswered."

A political solution, Abela said, remained the only viable solution, and the driving force to resolve the conflict had to be "wholeheartedly Libyan-led and Libyan-owned". 

New challenges

Abela highlighted the efforts that Malta had made to counteract the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the €1.81 billion economic package, equivalent to 12.9 per cent of Malta’s GDP in 2019, aimed at protecting employment and helping the worst-hit sectors. 

As a result, he said, around 25,500 jobs out of a workforce of around 250,000 were saved while many businesses were saved from having to close their doors.

"Our priority for the upcoming period is to continue building on what has been achieved so far by enhancing labour market access for all groups through continued upskilling, labour market incentives and by facilitating the transitions towards labour market participation as well as working towards promoting long term employability," Abela said.

He outlined Malta’s long-term strategic outlook, through investment in education and training, for an up-skilled society which is able to adapt to a modern, digital and sustainable labour market.

Abela also referred to the new challenges to global food security brought about by the pandemic, stressing the need for more sustainable agricultural practices that respected the environment. 

Facing a "crisis" in agricultural exports at the height of the pandemic, he said, Malta had sent food to Namibia in an initiative that fed half a million people in the southwest African country while preventing food waste in Malta and yielding an opportunity for long-term benefits in both countries. 

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