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Policy & History
January 1, 2020

How the United States Partners with the Government of Libya and the Libyan People

The United States has a strategic interest in a stable and prosperous Libya, and is supporting Libya’s democratic transition in cooperation with the UN and other international partners. Recognizing Libya’s own substantial resources, the United States has focused on building Libyan institutions and increasing its capacity to govern effectively, hold free and fair elections, and manage public finances transparently and responsibly. We have also provided targeted assistance to support the development of Libyan civil society and its security forces. Investing strategically in Libya’s future will help further advance Libya’s democratic transition, promote stability, and strengthen the U.S.-Libya partnership.

Since February 2011, the United States has provided over $450 million in assistance, mostly in response to urgent humanitarian and security challenges in the immediate aftermath of the beginning of the conflict. We have also focused on supporting capacity building efforts within government institutions, developing civil society, and facilitating free and fair elections. All programs advance key U.S. interests by filling critical capacity gaps within U.S.-Libya identified transition priorities. All projects are being coordinated with the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL)

History of the U.S. and Libya

The first treaty between the United States and Tripoli was signed on June 10, 1805. Thirty years later, the Ottoman Empire reasserted itself over its Libyan provinces, and Libya was taken under Italian control until 1947. The United States recognized the United Kingdom of Libya on December 24, 1951 in a congratulatory message sent by President Harry Truman to King Idris I for declaring independence. At that time, the American Consulate General was elevated to a Legation.

The Legation in Libya was raised to Embassy status on September 25, 1954. Although relations were not formally severed, the U.S. Embassy at Tripoli closed for the first time on May 2, 1980, and the Libyan People’s Bureau in Washington closed on May 6, 1981, both until 2004. The United States established an Interests Section at the Belgian Embassy in Tripoli on February 8, 2004, transitioning into a U.S. Liaison Office on June 28. Libyan diplomats reestablished a presence in Washington on July 8, 2004, where they opened the Libyan Interests Section as part of the United Arab Emirates Embassy.

The U.S. and Libya resumed full diplomatic relations in 2006, when the Liaison Office became an Embassy. These relations deteriorated sharply when Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi attempted to suppress an uprising against his regime in 2011, leading to the United States suspending Embassy operations in Tripoli on February 25. The United States ordered the Libyan Government to suspend its Embassy operations in Washington on March 16.

The United States maintained a diplomatic presence in Benghazi from April 2011 to September 2012, appointing a Special Representative to the Transitional National Council (TNC) in March of the same year. The U.S. Government officially recognized the TNC as the legitimate government of Libya on July 15, 2011. The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli resumed operations on September 22, 2011.

The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other American colleagues were killed on September 11, 2012 during an attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi. Following the death of Ambassador Stevens, the American Embassy in Tripoli was headed by Charge Greg Hicks.

On July 26, 2014, Embassy operations in Libya were suspended due to ongoing violence between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the Embassy in Tripoli. The mission was relocated to Valleta, Malta. Today, the U.S. Embassy resides in Tunis, Tunisia and is committed to continuing this relationship despite limited capacity and resources.

Embassy Fact Sheets

U.S.-Libya Relations

The United States has a strategic interest in a stable and prosperous Libya, and supports Libya’s democratic transition in cooperation with the UN and other international partners. The United States is focused on promoting the ability of Libyans to maintain a unified and inclusive government that can both secure the country and meet the economic and humanitarian needs of the Libyan people.

U.S. Assistance to Libya

The United States is committed to providing targeted assistance to build Libyan institutions, promote political reconciliation, and increase Libya’s capacity to govern effectively by holding free and fair elections, securing Libya’s territory, and managing public finances transparently and responsibly. Investing in Libya’s future will help advance Libya’s democratic transition, promote stability, and strengthen the U.S.-Libya partnership.  The United States works with the national government, municipal councils, entrepreneurs, and a range of civil society groups, including those representing women and marginalized communities, in their efforts to improve Libyan lives.

Bilateral Economic Relations     

Oil revenues constitute Libya’s principal source of foreign exchange. Many U.S. companies, particularly in the oil sector, have long-standing investments in Libya.  Two-way trade in goods between the United States and Libya totaled nearly $400 million in 2015.  The United States also has signed a trade and investment framework agreement with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, of which Libya is a member.

Libya’s Membership in International Organizations

Libya and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank. Libya is an observer to the World Trade Organization.

Bilateral Representation

Peter W. Bodde currently serves as Ambassador.

Libya maintains an embassy in the United States at 2600 Virginia Avenue NW, Suite 400, Washington DC 20037 (tel: 202-944-9601).

More information about Libya is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

Information About Libya

map of Libya

General Information About Libya
Official Name: Libya
Location: North Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria, southern border with Chad, Niger, and Sudan.
Area: 1,759,540 sq. km.
Cities: Tripoli (capital), Benghazi.
Terrain: Mostly barren, flat to undulating plains, plateaus, depressions.
Climate: Mediterranean along coast; dry, extreme desert interior.
Land use: Arable land–1.03%; permanent crops–0.19%; other–98.78%.
Nationality: Noun and adjective–Libyan(s).
Population: 6,541,948 (July 2015 est.)
Note: immigrants make up just over 12% of the total population, according to UN data (2015) (July 2016 est.)
Annual population growth rate: 1.8% (2016 est.)
Birth rate: 17.8 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)
Death rate: 3.6 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)
Ethnic groups: Berber and Arab 97%; other 3% (includes Greeks, Maltese, Italians, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Turks, Indians, and Tunisians).
Religion: Muslim (official; virtually all Sunni) 96.6%, Christian 2.7%, Buddhist 0.3%, Hindu <0.1, Jewish <0.1, folk religion <0.1, unafilliated 0.2%, other <0.1
Note: non-Sunni Muslims include native Ibadhi Muslims (<1% of the population) and foreign Muslims (2010 est.)
Languages: Arabic (official), Italian, English (all widely understood in the major cities); Berber (Nafusi, Ghadamis, Suknah, Awjilah, Tamasheq)
Education: Years compulsory–9. Attendance–90%. Literacy(age 15 and over who can read and write)–total population 82.6%; male 92.4%; female 72% (2003 est.).
Health: total: 11.1 deaths/1,000 live births
Male: 12 deaths/1,000 live births
Female: 10.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
Total population: 76.5 years
Male: 74.7 years
Female: 78.3 years (2016 est.)
Work force: 1.153 million (2016 est.)
Official name: Libya.
Type: in transition
Independence: Libya declared independence on December 24, 1951.
Revolution Day: February 17, 2011.
Constitution: The Constitution Drafting Assembly continued drafting a new constitution as of late 2016 (2016)
Administrative divisions: 22 districts (shabiyat, singular – shabiyat); Al Butnan, Al Jabal al Akhdar, Al Jabal al Gharbi, Al Jafarah, Al Jufrah, Al Kufrah, Al Marj, Al Marqab, Al Wahat, An Nuqat al Khams, Az Zawiyah, Banghazi, Darnah, Ghat, Misratah, Murzuq, Nalut, Sabha, Surt, Tarabulus, Wadi al Hayat, Wadi ash Shati
Major political parties: NA
Suffrage: 18 years of age, universal
Real GDP: $90.89 billion (2016 est.)
GDP per capita: $14,200 (2016 est.)
Real GDP growth rate: -3.3% (2016 est.)
Natural resources: Petroleum, natural gas, gypsum.
Agriculture: wheat, barley, olives, dates, citrus, vegetables, peanuts, soybeans; cattle
Industry: petroleum, petrochemicals, aluminum, iron and steel, food processing, textiles, handicrafts, cement
Trade: $10.65 billion (2016 est.)
Crude oil, refined petroleum products, natural gas, chemicals
Major markets: Italy 32.1%, Germany 11.3%, China 8%, France 8%, Spain 5.6%, Netherlands 5.4%, Syria 5.3% (2015)
Imports: $9.551 billion (2016 est.)
Machinery, semi-finished goods, food, transport equipment, consumer products
Major suppliers: China 14.8%, Italy 12.9%, Turkey 11.1%, Tunisia 6.5%, France 6.1%, Spain 4.6%, Syria 4.5%, Egypt 4.4%, South Korea 4.3% (2015)