Italy calls for ‘political solution’ in Libya

Italy and other western powers on Tuesday stressed the need for a political solution to the crisis in Libya, apparently distancing themselves from calls for military intervention in the north African state.

Italy calls for 'political solution' in Libya
UN envoy Bernardino Leon will be holding meetings in the coming days with parties in Libya to try and rally support for a unity government. Photo: AFP

The "brutal" recent beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by militants affiliated to the Islamic State group demonstrated "once again the urgent need for a political solution to the conflict," a statement issued in the name of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain said, according to an Italian version of the text released by the foreign ministry in Rome.

The governments condemned all acts of terrorism in Libya and said a UN-sponsored attempt to get the country's warring militias to a negotiating table with the aim of forming a government of national unity was the "best hope" for peace in the country.

"The international community is ready to fully support a national unity government to meet the current challenges faced by Libya."

They said UN envoy Bernardino Leon would be holding meetings in the coming days with parties in Libya to try and rally support for a unity government.

Those who did not take part would be excluding themselves from a political solution which has become an urgent necessity because of the terrorist threat, the statement said.

It added that anyone who failed to help save Libya from extremism and chaos would be held responsible by the Libyan people and the international community for their actions.

The statement came ahead of a UN Security Council meeting on Libya on Wednesday.

Egypt, which has already carried out retaliatory airstrikes against IS targets in Libya over the murders of its nationals, has asked the Council to provide a mandate for international intervention in its neighbour.

Italy, the European country most exposed to the overspill from the chaos in Libya, raised speculation about possible western intervention last week when two senior ministers made noises about being "ready to fight" and commit troops to combat the terror threat.

But Prime Minster Matteo Renzi has since quashed such talk, insisting that any intervention will only come after all political and diplomatic avenues are exhausted and with full UN authorization.

At an emergency meeting of his security committee on Tuesday, Renzi approved plans first outlined last week to raise the number of troops stationed at potential terror target sites across the country from 3,000 to 4,800 as part of a "safe streets" initiative.

Italy has been urging its allies for months to take a closer interest in events in Libya. The breakdown of government in the former Italian colony has contributed to a dramatic increase in the number of African and Middle Eastern migrants and refugees arriving in Italy by sea after transiting through Libya.


Libya conference to be held in Sicily in November: Italy

A Libya conference will be held in Sicily in November, Italy's foreign minister said Tuesday, with talks focusing on an "inclusive approach" to stabilising the war-torn north African country while not fixating on a date for elections.

Libya conference to be held in Sicily in November: Italy
The coastline of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The peace conference in Palermo on November 12 and 13 will aim to “identify the stages of a stabilisation process”, Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi told the Senate.

The meeting would drive towards “a common solution, even if there are differences of opinion between the parties involved”, he said.

Four key leaders from Libya agreed at a conference in Paris in May to hold landmark polls on December 10 as part of a French-led plan to stabilise the crisis-hit country despite ongoing violence and deep divisions.

France, however, has faced opposition to the election timetable from the United States along with other European Union countries, notably Italy.

Milanesi said he had received “confirmation of interest” in the conference from Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar as well as support from the US, and was planning on discussing the dossier with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Monday.

“No deadlines will be imposed on the Libyans, nor tasks dictated,” Milanesi said.

Italy, a key supporter of the UN-backed government of Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli, said in September it wants to “maintain an active dialogue” with all well-intentioned actors in Libya.

The Libyan capital has been at the centre of a battle for influence between armed groups since dictator Moamer Kadhafi was driven from power and killed in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising.

Sarraj's Government of National Accord has been unable to form a functioning army or regular security forces and has been forced to rely on militias to keep Tripoli safe.

Militias formed the backbone of the uprising that toppled Kadhafi.

Since then rival administrations, including one allied with Haftar and based in the remote east, and the militias have competed for authority and oil wealth in the North African country.

Accused by his opponents of wanting to establish a new military dictatorship, Haftar refuses to recognise the authority of Sarraj's Tripoli-based GNA.