Rome, Aug 9 (IANS/AKI) The United Nations must take “very strong” leadership to end the crisis in chaos-wracked Libya, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said on Tuesday.
“The UN must show very strong leadership on Libya,” he told journalists after a meeting with the new United Nations envoy Ghassan Salame here.
“Up until today there have been too many deals, too many negotiators and zero results. The instability in Libya is not a Serie B game, it is an absolute priority,” Alfano said.
He reemphasised his support for the UN-backed government of national accord in Tripoli in its struggle to rule the country split by a myriad of armed groups and several rival administrations that have vied for power since the 2011 ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Alfano also stressed the need for economic aid to Libya as well as measures to tackle people smugglers operating out of the country, where Italy this month launched a naval mission to give technical and logistical support Libyan coastguard at the request of UN-backed Premier Fayez al Sarraj.
Salame, meanwhile, said that it would be “unrealistic” to ignore Khalifa Haftar, a powerful military strongman based in the east of the turmoil-hit country.
“Haftar has an impact on a part of Libya and supporters among the Libyan people,” Salame told journalists after the meeting with Alfano.
“He could have political as well as military ambitions. So it would be unrealistic for the UN special envoy to ignore such a force in that part of the country,” said Salame, a former Lebanese Culture Minister.
He also praised the controversial naval mission launched this month by Italy to help Libyan Coastguard fight human trafficking, allegedly at the request of the UN-backed government in Tripoli, saying the mission was the “right way” forward.
“Cooperation and transparency between Italy and Libya,” would lead to the best results, Salame said.
Haftar last week threatened to attack Italian navy vessels if they entered Libyan waters without permission from his Libyan National Army. The Haftar-allied parliament based in Tobruk in the east of the country, also slammed the Italian naval mission as an act of aggression.
In widespread social media posts, Libyans also protested the naval mission in a reflection of broader anger in Libya over the intervention of Italy, a former colonial power that ruled the oil-rich North African country for the first half of the 20th century.
Sarraj and Haftar – Libya’s main rival leaders – signed an accord on a ceasefire, elections in 2018 and other political steps at a meeting last month in Paris hosted by French president Emmanuel Macron and attended by Salame.