By Vanessa Tomassini.
Milan, 25 September 2017:
The head of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Hafter is reported to have left Benghazi today for Rome where he is due to have talks tomorrow with Italian defence minister Roberta Pinotti. The discussions are expected to focus both on efforts to solve the Libyan crisis and the issue of migrants heading to Italy from Libya.
Italian media reports that Rome also wants Hafter and the LNA to provide protection for Eni’s Mellitah oil and gas plant, 100 kilometres west of Tripoli, are seen as improbable given that the LNA’s presence in the area is considered inadequate for the task.
Hafter has created something of a major polemic in Italy with strong views on either side about dealing with him. His visit, moreover, is reported to have provoked something of a diplomatic headache for the Italian government following its announcement.
Italy formally recognises the Presidency Council chaired by Faiez Serraj and its government of national accord but in efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis, the Italian government has said that it is “in dialogue with everyone”. That resulted in Italian interior minister Marco Minniti going to Benghazi for talks with Hafter earlier this month and inviting him to Rome – despite the fact that Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni told the UN General Assembly last week that there could be no military solution in Libya – a clear Italian shot across Hafter’s bows.
It is said in Rome that when Serraj heard about the Italian invitation, he immediately demanded an explanation from the Italian ambassador in Libya, Giuseppe Perrone. To mollify the PC, Rome then hastily organised an invitation to the new head of the PC’s chief of staff, Major-General Abdulrahman Al-Tawil. He arrived last Saturday.
Also, to avoid diplomatic feathers being ruffled in Tripoli, it is reported that Hafter will not meet prime minister Gentiloni or foreign minister Angelino Alfano.