By Sami Zaptia.
London, 10 January 2017:
Today Libya Herald was the first Libyan publication to exclusively interview the new Italian ambassador to Libya, Giuseppe Perrone from his office in the Italian embassy in Dahra, Tripoli by phone.
Italy is the first major power to reopen its embassy in Tripoli after having been the last to close it for security reasons in February 2015. Perrone had received his credentials from Presidency Council head and Government of National Accord Prime Minister-designate Faiez Serraj in Tripoli yesterday.
Perrone is 49 years old and was Consul General in Los Angeles from 2011 to 2014 when he returned to Rome as Director for the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Countries and was appointed ambassador to Tripoli.
Libya Herald (LH): What are your immediate plans within the next few weeks in your relatively new position as Italian ambassador to Tripoli but now actually based within Tripoli?
Perrone: ‘‘Our plan is to reactivate the operations of all the embassy progressively which has been suspended for nearly two years. But obviously it is going to take some time. But most importantly is that we want to be here and witness the support by Italy to the Libyan people and our closeness and affinity for the Libyan people’’.
‘‘And that is why we think that it is a very important gesture of my country towards Libya. This is what we want to display. We are close to the Libyan people at this moment which is obviously a difficult moment that many Libyans of good will are trying to overcome to reach a full democratic society and political system with full participation of all components of Libyan society’’.
LH: Libya consider itself a transit point for illegal migrants and not a source. Is Italy considering repatriating illegal migrants that had set off from Libya across the Mediterranean arriving in Italy?
Perrone: ‘‘I think there is a lot of misinterpretation and a lot of confusion on this issue which is actually very simple. I think that Italy and Libya share a common priority on the issue of fighting illegal migration, terrorism and human smuggling – most importantly’’.
‘‘It is a common priority because it undermines both societies so it does not make a difference that Italy is a country of destination and that Libya is a country of transit. It undermines stability in both countries. And I think both the Libyan authorities and Italian authorities are committed to combatting this phenomenon by uniting forces and by making sure that Libyan forces do have the capacity to carry out the struggle and that we cooperate with all the international actors working on this issue’’.
‘‘Obviously this requires a large number and specific set of measures that needs to be undertaken because it is a very complex phenomenon that involves different countries in Africa, transit countries and countries of destination. It’s a very complex phenomenon that cannot be over simplified. Otherwise we lose sight of the issue’’.
LH: Asked again if Italy planned to repatriate illegal migrants to Libya
4.42 Perrone: ‘‘How can we repatriate illegal migrants to Libya? We are planning to work with Libya to stop this phenomenon by increasing the capacity of the Libyan authorities to combat this phenomenon. This is what we are trying to do. I cannot tell you what we are not trying to do.’’
LH: What other aid or help is Italy planning to give Libya?
5.33 Perrone: ‘‘it is not just about Italy helping Libya. We are equal, so it is about the structure of cooperation that makes sense for both countries. Italy is supporting Libya in many areas. Libya needs the international community at this moment. The most important thing is that Libya becomes a fully integrated part of the international community and it overcomes this strange isolation that it is going through now so that Libyans are able to travel freely around the world and get visas to travel and so they can have direct air links to Europe. All these things can make the life of the Libyan citizen easier, in addition to helping the Libyan authorities to provide services to the population’’.
LH: The first year anniversary of the Skhirat Libyan Political Agreement passed in in December 2016, yet besides the success against ISIS in Sirte, the Presidency Council/Government of National Accord has failed to achieve progress for Libyans on the ground. What is your view?
Perrone: The LPA is an internal Libyan affair so I have no comment on that. But it is very important that authorities have the means to improve the situation for the Libyan people. There needs to be a full and complete reconciliation in all the country. There needs to be an acceptance like in many countries that a change of power is part of a normal process’’.
Relations with eastern Libya?
LH: Is Italy only interested in relations with western Libya (where Italian energy giant ENI, operates and has its commercial interests) and not eastern Libya?
Perrone: ‘’Absolutely not. Italy wants to improve relations in every region of Libya as every region of Libya is an integral component of all of Libya’’.
‘‘We want to have relations with all regions. We have established cooperation with the east and intend to pursue and improve it. This includes the possibility of treating some combatants from the eastern region’’.