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Palermo Conference Marks Step Towards Stabilization of Libya

Nov. 13, 2018 (EIRNS)—Government friendly media in Italy, as well as the special UN envoy Ghassan Salamé, describe the results of the International Conference on Libya which took place in Palermo, Italy, Nov. 12-13, as a success. Despite some outstanding absences from Italy’s EU “allies,” all main players from Libya and neighboring countries attended and agreed to a road map towards national elections, to be held as the last stage of a reunification process. The emblematic photo of the summit shows the two Libyan rivals, Tripoli Prime Minister Fayez Serraj and Libyan National Army head Gen. Khalifa Haftar, joining hands together with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Haftar’s statements reflect the agreement reached on the road map: “You don’t change horses in the middle of the river”; i.e., Serraj can stay as prime minister until the elections.

The road map includes: A General Assembly with all Libyan tribes; the creation of a real military force which is recognized by everyone; union of all institutions which are now split between East and West, and finally holding national elections.

General Haftar did not participate in the plenary assembly because of the presence of Qatar and of an Islamist group from Tripoli. But he joined a smaller group which included Italy, Russia, France, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, and UN envoy Salamé, as well as Serraj.

The Turkish representative walked out of the conference in protest for not being invited to the restricted group.

Extremely important was the presence of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who is key for his influence on Haftar. Italy-Egypt relations seem to be back on track, after the British-engineered Regeni murder case, in the framework of opportunities offered by cooperation in Egypt’s development goals.

Russia was represented by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. It is not clear who was there for the U.S. government. Tunisia was represented by President Beji Caid Essebsi, and Algeria by Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia.

Macron’s absence was taken almost for granted, as Paris views the Italian initiative with hostility. Macron almost sabotaged the Palermo conference, organizing a mini-summit with the Misrata leaders Nov. 8, and inviting the Tunisian President to Paris Nov. 12, the same day of the Palermo conference. France, however, has put on a good face and has sent Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Angela Merkel’s refusal, instead, came as a surprise a few days before the summit, as the German Chancellor had previously committed to participate.

The Palermo conference was “a success and a major milestone in our common fight to bring back peace, security and prosperity to the Libyan people,” said UN Special Envoy for Libya Ghassan Salamé.

Russian Prime Minister Medvedev said gathering all participants in the dialogue for pacifying Libya is important, but “It all depends 90% on Libyans, on those political forces which were represented here today.” Speaking to RIA Novosti, Medvedev said that “it is not easy at all to build such a kind of dialogue. It is important all be all here to meet, to speak in solidarity with the Libyan people in this difficult moment of their history. But, that it is a complicated situation, you see also from how the representatives of the Libyan delegation interact among them.”

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