I am very happy to welcome Prime Minister Al-Serraj in Brussels today on the eve of the Malta summit.
EU leaders will be discussing in Malta how the European Union and its Member States can better cooperate with Libya. We have a shared interest in and determination to reduce the number of irregular migrants risking their lives crossing the Central Mediterranean. This is not sustainable for Europe nor for Libya, as the smugglers let people drown and undermine the authority of the Libyan state for their own profit. Tomorrow I will put forward additional concrete and operational measures to strengthen our work, to more effectively tackle the smuggling and trafficking networks and help manage migratory flows more effectively.
Europe has proved it is able to close down irregular routes of migration, as we did on the Eastern Mediterranean route. We have discussed the example of our cooperation with Turkey and other countries in this part of the region. Now it is time to close down the route from Libya to Italy. I have spoken at length with the Italian Prime Minister Gentiloni about it yesterday and I can assure you that it is within our reach. What we need is the full determination to do that. We owe it first and foremost to those who suffer and risk their lives. But we also owe it to Italians and all Europeans.
Although it is only one issue of several in our strategic relationship, I am nevertheless glad for the opportunity to have discussed it with the Prime Minister today.
Let me say that the EU is fully behind the efforts of the Libyan people to find an inclusive political settlement, and the United Nations efforts to that end. I reiterated the EU's support for the Presidency Council and the Government of National Accord in implementing the Libyan Political Agreement. What is needed now is further outreach in a constructive manner to those in Libya who have not yet rallied around the new institutions.
The Libyans have shown determination in the fight against terrorism. However, the threat remains in Libya and in neighbouring countries, and sustained efforts will be needed to win this struggle outright so that terrorism is beaten and does not return.
The humanitarian and security situation in Libya has devastated the prospects of the civilian population and their hopes of a normal life. The EU will continue to provide assistance to the Libyan people. We urge all Libyans to put aside their differences so that we can engage further and enhance our relationship. As neighbours, we share many common interests, including stability and prosperity on both sides of the Mediterranean.
Let me finally turn to another crisis high on the European Union's radar screen; the situation in eastern Ukraine, where we again are witnessing a sharp increase in violence. The ceasefire violations that have taken place over the last few days have demonstrated a new level of intensity and brutality. The humanitarian situation in the Avdiivka region is getting critical. We are reminded again of the continued challenge posed by Russia's aggression in eastern Ukraine as well as the threat to the implementation of the Minsk agreement. The fighting must stop immediately. The ceasefire must be honoured. Russia should use its influence to disengage the Russian-backed separatists. Weapons need to be withdrawn and the OSCE given unhindered access. Thank you.