by Stefania Fumo
ROME, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- Italy on Tuesday asked the United Nations to step in to lead negotiations between opposing factions in Libya, a key step to stopping the Central Mediterranean route for thousands of illegal migrants.
Stabilizing the north African country will help curb migrant flows to Italy, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni told UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame. "Stronger Libyan authorities will make the common effort against traffickers in human beings more effective," Italian news agency ANSA cited the premier as saying.
"Italy has been working for Libya's stabilization for some time," Gentiloni said during the meeting here. "I hope that the United Nations will give this process a decisive push."
"Italy PM Gentiloni affirmed that Libya political process is Libyan-Led and UN will work alongside them based on their views for way forward," the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSIMIL) tweeted after the meeting, posting a photo of Ghassan and Gentiloni together.
Salame, who also met with Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, praised the Italian Navy mission to support the Libyan coast guard in fighting migrant traffickers. "Cooperation and transparency between Italy and Libya is the most constructive way (forward)," Salame told a televised joint press conference with Alfano after their meeting. "We're on the right path in addressing a challenge that concerns us all," he said.
For his part, Alfano said a single negotiation process on Libya led by the United Nations was necessary. "Negotiation formats in Libya must be reduced to one, the UN needs to take the leadership," Alfano told the press conference.
"Up until today there have been too many negotiations, too many negotiators," the foreign minister said, calling the stabilization of Libya "an absolute priority".
Also on Tuesday, Spanish migrant rescue group Pro Activa Open Arms was the fourth humanitarian organization to sign the Italian government's new code of conduct for search-and-rescue NGOs in the Mediterranean. The other signatories so far are Save the Children, the Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and Sea Eye.
Doctors without Borders (MSF), German youth NGO Jugend Rettet, Sea Watch, and SOS Mediterranee have refused to sign. However, SOS Mediterranee has requested a meeting with the Italian authorities to "clarify its position" on the code "ahead of a possible signing," ANSA reported.
Jugend Rettet crew members are currently under investigation in Italy on suspicion of aiding illegal immigration, and their vessel Iuventa has been seized.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella also stepped in on Tuesday to stress the "value of the code of conduct for NGOs", which was cleared by the European Commission last month.
The NGOs launched their vessels in beginning in 2015, in response to mass drowning in the Mediterranean following the termination of Italy's Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) search-and-rescue mission.
Tthe UN-affiliated International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported Tuesday that 116,692 migrants and refugees have reached Europe by sea so far this year, while 2,405 people died or went missing in the attempt.
"On the Central Mediterranean route to Italy, there were three percent fewer arrivals than last year during the same period," the IOM tweeted.