Conference on Libya reassures UN over chances of new transition plan

Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-14 23:13:46|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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PALERMO, Italy, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- A two-day international conference on the Libyan crisis in the southern city of Palermo closed on Tuesday, registering a positive climate among Libyan parties involved, according to the Italian authorities and the United Nations.

UN Special Envoy for Libya Ghassan Salame said the talks helped him feel "reassured" about the prospects of a new UN transition plan, which calls for a national conference in Libya at the beginning of 2019 to outline a path toward elections.

"I believe the Libyan national conference we are planning for the first weeks of next year will be made easier by this summit," Salame told a press conference jointly held with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

"I say this because I have seen a unanimous support from the international community, and because of the clear commitment of the Libyans present here that they will attend and contribute to the national conference," the UN envoy added.

Participants in the Palermo meeting included Libya's four key actors: Prime Minister of UN-backed Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj, Head of the High State Council Khalid al-Mishri, President of the House of Representatives Ageela Saleh and General Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army.

In all, 38 delegations took part in the summit, including representatives from France, Russia, China, the United States, Germany, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as from the European Union, the Arab League, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

"The substantial and highly-qualified presence of the Libyan parties here in Palermo has been a very encouraging signal, and a strong message of hope," Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said at the press conference.

"We leave from Palermo feeling confident in the prospects of the stabilization of Libya," Conte added.

Giuseppe Dentice, associate research fellow at the Milan-based Italian Institute for International Political Studies, told Xinhua the conference seemed to be "a good step towards stabilization," given its negative premises due to the absence of major leaders such as U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

"Overall, it proved a summit that put Libya's interests at the core, and involved Libyan parties as much as possible, which indeed marked a discontinuity with previous conciliation attempts," Dentice explained.

"If we judge by the degree of involvement of the local actors, the fact that Gen. Haftar did not take part in the plenary session was not a good sign, but at least all Libyan contenders have addressed each other, and had an opportunity to express their requests."

On Tuesday morning, Tripoli-based PM al-Sarraj and General Haftar of the eastern Libyan National Army, two major rivals in the Libyan political spectrum, held talks on the sidelines of the conference in a encounter painstakingly brokered by Italy's Conte.

This informal meeting was also attended by Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, President of the European Council Donald Tusk and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

This was seen as a good sign in terms of reconciliation efforts, since General Haftar had made clear that he would not join the roundtable talks here in Palermo and had indeed left before the plenary session started.

However, it triggered a negative response from the Turkish delegation, which withdrew from the summit before closure for not being invited.

"The informal meeting held this morning was presented as a meeting among prominent protagonists of the Mediterranean region, but this is a misleading and harming stance that we strongly condemn," Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said in a note, as reported by Turkish news agency Anadolu.

Speaking to Turkish reporters before leaving, Oktay added that "any meeting without Turkey would prove counterproductive in the perspective of solving the (Libyan) issue."

At the press conference, Conte said he was sorry for this withdrawal, but added that Turkey's step did not modify the "positive spirit" of the conference, and that such reactions were sometime possible considering the delicacy of the issue and the region.

Conte stressed that Rome aimed at taking the most inclusive possible approach. "Within the Libyan scenario, Italy can be a factor promoting stability, and we do have the clear goal of talking with all Libyans (parties), which we see as equally important," he said.

Libya's stability and security are also in the primary interests of Italy, which was Libya's former colonial ruler and has seen the most part of a large influx of migrants and refugees in recent years departing from Libyan shores.

The oil-rich country fell into chaos after its former ruler Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011 and remains divided till today. It has turned into a key hub for human trafficking from Africa into Europe.

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