By Jamie Prentis.
Tunis, 21 April 2017:
“I do not see a role in Libya,” Donald Trump said yesterday, Thursday, in one of the few comments on the situation in the country he has so far made.
“I think the United States right now has enough roles,” he added, following talks with Italian Prime Minister Paulo Gentiloni at the White House.
Trump was speaking after Gentiloni had stressed the importance of Italian and US action on Libya.
“The US role in this is very crucial. We need a stable and unified Libya,” he said before appearing to be rebuffed by Trump.
The US president did say his country would continue to play a major role in ridding the world of the so-called Islamist State (IS), including in Libya.
Although IS was ousted from its Sirte stronghold by Misrata-led forces last December, remnants of the terror group are reported to remain elsewhere in the country, notably the south.
Italian officials, however, have denied that Trump snubbed Gentiloni. They say that Libya took up most of the time of the two leaders’ talks and that Trump, who was not using the simultaneous translation, had simply misunderstood what the Italian premier had been saying. The meeting had been a success and Washington was fully involved in trying to ensure peace in Libya, they insisted. They claimed that the Trump administration had invited both Presidency Council head Faiez Serraj and Khalifa Hafter to the US capital for talks later this year.
Prior to meeting Trump, Gentiloni told Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies that “the division of Libya is not a good idea. It would be dangerous for for Egypt, dangerous for Tunisia and for the interests of Europe”.
He also criticised international interference in the 2011 revolution saying that it “lacked a vision or perspective for the future”.
While in Washington, the Italian PM called Serraj to discuss the Libyan situation as well as a number of joint projects already agreed.
This includes the training of the Libyan coastguards. The first two of 10 boats intended support migrant rescue efforts was handed over to Libya today at a ceremony in the southern Italian port of Gaeta marking the end of the first training course for Libya coast guards at the naval school there. Twenty Libyan coast guards fished the course.
The acting Libyan ambassador to Italy, Ahmed Safar, said at the handover ceremony today that “Libya is not a guardian of the Mediterranean, it is part of an international cooperation, and we hope to be able to stop human trafficking.
Also attending was Italian interior minister Marco Minniti who expressed the hope that a strengthened Libya coastguard would do much to prevent human traffickers from operating.
A second course for another 19 other Libyan officers begins next week. The remaining eight boats are to be delivered by the end of June.