Libya talks ‘a turning point’: Gentiloni

A US and Italy-led coalition of world powers and regional players on Sunday urged Libya's warring factions to lay down their weapons and back a new national unity government under a UN peace plan due to be signed on Wednesday.

Libya talks 'a turning point': Gentiloni
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L), Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and UN special envoy Martin Kobler. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

US Secretary of State John Kerry was among ministers and officials from 17 countries who, along with the UN, the EU and the Arab league, called for an immediate ceasefire across Libya.

They pledged support for efforts to end the chaos that has engulfed the North African state since the 2011 overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi, and to reduce the risk of Isis expanding its presence.

“We came here today because we cannot allow the status quo to continue,” Kerry said at the close of talks attended by 15 officials from different wings of Libya's splintered political class.

“It is dangerous for the viability of Libya, dangerous for Libyans and, because of Daesh (Isis) migrating there, dangerous for everyone.

“We refuse to stand by and watch a vacuum filled by terrorists.”

Kerry dismissed criticism that the proposed Government of National Accord was being imposed from outside in the absence of consensus on the ground, and amid a security situation which makes it uncertain that the new administration will be able to base itself in the capital Tripoli.

“This is a process driven by Libyans, they are determined to do this,” the top US diplomat said.

The ministers were joined in the afternoon by the Libyan officials from factions in the country's rival parliaments, an internationally-recognized one based in Tobruk and an Islamist-backed assembly in Tripoli.

'A turning point'

Some representatives of both assemblies have tentatively agreed to sign the UN plan in Morocco on Wednesday but it remains unclear how much opposition it will encounter.

Kerry insisted that majorities of both parliaments supported the peace plan and said only fringe players were obstructing progress.

The figures who had come to Rome “have decided they are not going to let Libya be the prisoner of one or two people or small groups,” he said.

UN envoy Martin Kobler, who brokered the accord due to be signed on Wednesday, said: “They represent the majority, the voice of the people of Libya.”

The accelerated diplomacy reflects fears in Western capitals that instability in Libya will allow Isis-allied groups to expand beyond a small section of coastline they currently control around the city of Sirte.

Anarchy in Libya has also given people traffickers a free hand to use the country as a launchpad from which hundreds of thousands of migrants have been sent to Europe in the last two years.

European governments want that route closed off amid fears a looming humanitarian crisis in Libya could accelerate the flux.

France's representative at the talks, Harlem Desir, told reporters: “We cannot accept a situation of political chaos where terrorism thrives. It is a threat to the security of the region and to Europe.”

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni hailed Sunday's talks as “a turning point in a crisis that has lasted far too long” but acknowledged that the stabilization of Italy's former colony would require a long term commitment.

'Wishful thinking'

The upbeat tone of the conference's hosts contrasts with the prevailing pessimism among many Libya-watchers about the prospects of a new administration leading to sustainable peace.

Former Italian foreign minister Emma Bonino and the head of International Crisis Group Jean-Marie Guehenno called the rush towards a Wednesday signing “an irresponsible bet.”

Writing in Politico, the pair said it is “wishful thinking” to believe a majority of Libyans will back a foreign-backed sole national authority.

If the government cannot return to Tripoli, it will have no control over state administration and attempts to force the issue could trigger renewed fighting, they argue.

Alison Pargeter, of Britain's Royal United Services Institute, said ahead of Sunday's talks that it was difficult to be optimistic.

“The country needs a proper reconciliation process. At the moment the largest tribes are outside the process. Because they were pro-Kadhafi, they are completely on the sidelines.”

Libya has had rival administrations since August 2014, when an Islamist-backed militia alliance overran Tripoli, forcing the government to take refuge in the east.

Under the UN plan, the new government is to be formed within 40 days of the accord due to be signed in Skhirat, Morocco on Wednesday.


Italy’s Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report

Ex-PM Matteo Renzi would like to see former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi become prime minister of Italy, a party source told Reuters on Sunday.

Italy's Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report
Matteo Renzi. Image: Andreas Solaro/ POOL / AFP

“I would say that is one of our proposals,” confirmed the source, who declined to be named.

The Italian government collapsed last week when PM Giuseppe Conte resigned. The former coalition allies are currently trying to come to an agreement and sort out their differences.

The centre-left government had been in turmoil ever since former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party earlier this month, a move that forced Conte to step down this week.

During the past year, Renzi frequently criticised Conte’s management of the pandemic and economic crisis.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper also reported on Sunday that President Sergio Mattarella was considering Draghi for the prime ministerial role. However, Mattarella’s office promptly denied this, saying there had been no contact between them.

So far, there has been no comment from Draghi, who hasn't been seen much in the public eye since 2019.

Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, gave ruling parties more time on Friday to form a new government, after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. 

Coalition parties Italia Viva, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement must come to an agreement to allow the government to heal. 

Renzi, a former prime minister himself, has pubilcly stated that he does not want to talk about who should lead the next government at this stage, reasoning that the parties need to agree on a way forward first.

“Any effort today to fuel a discussion about Draghi is offensive to Draghi and above all to the president of the republic,” Renzi said in an interview published on Sunday with Corriere della Sera.

A senior Italia Viva lawmaker also told Reuters that “If the president gives a mandate to Draghi, we would certainly support this”. 

Renzi, whose party is not even registering three percent support in opinion polls, quit the coalition over Conte’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his plans for spending more than 200 billion euros from a European Union fund to help Italy’s damaged economy.

READ ALSO: Why do Italy's governments collapse so often?