By Sami Zaptia.
London, 10 August 2018:
The Italian embassy in Tripoli has denied that ambassador Giuseppe Perrone had requested that the holding of Libyan elections be delayed.
The denial came in a statement published by the embassy on its official Twitter account yesterday.
The full statement read: ‘‘In reference to today’s statements coming from the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives in Tobruk, and circulated by some Libyan media outlets, the Italian Embassy in Tripoli notes that, in his August 4 interview with the TV network Libya’s Channel, Ambassador Perrone never asked for delaying elections in Libya. To the contrary, he maintained that any decision concerning the date of elections pertains to the Libyans and to the Libyans only’’.
As indicated in the statement of the Italian embassy’s in Tripoli, the statement came in reaction to a strongly worded denouncement of Perrone’s perceived remarks by the House of Representatives’ (HoR) Foreign Affairs Committee on the previous day.
The HoR Foreign Affairs Committee had denounced the election remarks made by Perrone. In its statement, it had claimed that Perrone had called insistently for Libya’s planned elections to be postponed and thereby breaking diplomatic protocol as a representative of Italy.
The Committee said it denounced what it considered as interference in Libyan affairs, in Libyan sovereignty and an insult and infringement on Libyan people’s choices. It called for an apology and said Perrone’s interference will have a negative effect on the current political process and on the Paris agreement (of May 2018).
Furthermore, the HoR Committee considered Perrone persona non grata and called for his replacement. It warned that Perrone’s remarks will cause damage to Italian interests in Libya and that they will lead to the recall of historical and colonialist baggage that Libya is trying to forget.
The HoR statement stressed that Libyan sovereignty and the choices of its people are red lines and called on the UN, as the broker of Libya’s political process, to take a decisive stand on such interference.
It called on all international parties, without exception, to refrain from interfering in internal Libyan affairs. It also called on the Libyan people to put aside their differences and stand united against external interference.
On the same note, it will also be recalled that during Tuesday’s (7 August) weekly press conference, Mohamed El Sallak, the official spokesperson for Faiez Serraj, head of the Presidency Council and Government of National Accord, stressed that the course and date of Libya’s planned elections were a matter to be decided by Libyans alone.
Sallak went on to convey the emphasis by Serraj and the whole Presidential Council on the responsibility of all Libyan parties concerned with Libya’s elections, and in particular those that had made a commitment to the Paris agreement. Sallak said Serraj requested that the concerned Paris participants abide by their (constitutional) obligations.
Answering follow up questions on the issue, Sallak reiterated and confirmed that Libya welcomes any positive and constructive role by the international community that participates in pushing in the direction of solving the Libyan crisis and assured the importance of the unification and coordination of the Libya efforts of the international community.
He stressed that only the Libyans that were party to the Paris agreement have the will and ability to decide the time of Libya’s elections, adding that no one can stop this process if the Libyan (Paris) parties have the real will (to hold elections).
Sallak added that the parties at Paris alone hold the tools and processes to activate the agreement leading to elections.
The TV comments by Perrone were widely seen in contrast to the perceived desire of France, deemed to be pushing for elections by December this year – as agreed during the Paris meeting in May.
Moreover, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told journalists on Wednesday that Italy’s primary interest was to stabilize Libya and to hold the presidential and political elections ‘‘with appropriate guarantees’’.
‘‘We are in no hurry to hold the vote tomorrow, in November or in December,” Conte had added.
Italy’s desire to hold elections when the right conditions were in place became more apparent in July after Conte returned from his Washington DC meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. Italy is now planning to hold its own Libya conference in Rome in November.