Facts, comments and scenarios on Libya after the Palermo conference wanted by the Italian government. Marco Orioles’s point
The Palermo Conference on Libya ends without a written declaration, but only with a “verbal but binding agreement”, as defined by the spokesman for Palazzo Chigi, Rocco Casalino. Enough for the Italian government to claim victory. “Congratulations to Conte’s work, as we promised we have regained centrality in the Mediterranean”, exults Luigi Di Maio. “Italy is back in the center after years of servility, good Count!”, Echoes his colleague Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini. High-sounding words, which are reflected in the enthusiasm of one of the protagonists of the Italian diplomatic initiative,United Nations envoy for Libya Ghassan Salame: “Palermo was a success, a milestone on the path of Libya”. Triumphalistic tones justified by the handshake in favor of the camera between the leaders of the two rival powers vying for control of the country, the head of the Tripoli executive Fayez al-Serraj and that of the Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar. “You don’t change your horse while crossing the river”, Haftar confided to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte,conference director. It is the signal that everyone in Palermo expected. The man whose presence in the Sicilian capital has been pending until the last minute accepts that his archenemy of the West retains the scepter of power until new elections. The availability of Haftar is the indicator that marks the difference between a flop and a win. The Italian government got the better of the frictions of a reality made up of lacerations and head-on clashes between opposing claims. All that glitters is not gold, of course.The Libyan family portrait granted by Haftar is counterbalanced by the refusal of the Cyrenaica delegation to support the final declaration during the plenary session that concludes the two days in Palermo. A tension dramatized by the conspicuous absence of Haftar, who leaves Sicily early, firm in his refusal to sit at the same table occupied by the hated exponents of the Muslim Brotherhood and by the representatives of the enemy governments of Turkey and Qatar. The agreement reached yesterday must therefore deal with the repetition of the game of the partieswhich prevents shortening the distances, which remain enormous, between the Islamist camp of Tripoli and the secular one of Tobruk. The Libyan psychodrama is the mirror of that fight to the death that is taking place in all the countries affected by the Arab springs of 2011: that between a politics subject to the diktats of Islam and a power that rejects the interference of faith in the sphere public. A clash of civilizations within Islamic civilization, fragmented between modernist instances and conservative legacies, a desire for alignment with the West on the one hand and a privileged look at Muslim partners on the other. A radical opposition that a single Conference, however well organized, cannot resolve. The Italian government has, however, put his face to it.And, after having collected the desertion of the main Western leaders, who sent only the second rows to Palermo, he still plays his game. A game whose outcome hangs in the balance until the very end. Faced with General Haftar’s refusal to confront his main bogeys, Giuseppe Conte remedies by setting up a reduced parallel summit. Haftar and Serraj take part, together with the Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, the President of Egypt al-Sisi, the President of Tunisia Essebsi, the President of the EU Council Donald Tusk, the French Foreign Minister Le Drian, the Algerian Prime Minister Ouyahia and Salami. Choice appreciated by the field marshal, who dissolves in a statement of esteem towards Conte: “He is a friend, I trust him”. Space therefore for photojournalists, who immortalize the warm handshake between Serraj,Those who are not satisfied are the Turkish delegate, the Turkish vice-president Fuat Oktay, who remained outside the parallel summit.“The informal meeting that took place this morning with some actors presented as protagonists of the Mediterranean – observes Oktay annoyed – is a very misleading and harmful approach to which we strongly oppose. (…) Unfortunately, the international community was unable to unite this morning ”. Fault, according to Oktay, of those who have “abused Italian hospitality”, a reference that is anything but veiled to Haftar. For the Turkish vice president, “any meeting that excludes Turkey” can only prove to be “counterproductive for the solution of this problem” because “the crisis in Libya will not be resolved if some countries continue to direct the process on the basis of their own limited interests”. Libya, Oktay specified, “needs no more,The Turkish discontent, however, in Conte’s eyes, a discordant note in a convincing score. In Palermo, the prime minister declared at the end of the conference, “important bases for the stabilization” of Libya were laid because the main actors of the crisis joined the Salame road map. A plan, Conte observes, “widely shared by the Libyans themselves, together with a strong cohesion of the international community”. For the premier, it would naturally be “unrealistic to say that we have solved all the problems, but certainly a step forward has been made in the process of stabilization and we place ourselves as facilitators, as actors in promoting the conditions of stability”. During the plenary session, Conte underlines how Italy, by sponsoring the Salame plan,created the conditions to “support the ceasefire in Tripoli and facilitate discussions for the implementation of the new security arrangements which aim to overcome the system based on armed groups (…). Here the international community will also be able to express concrete support for the creation and deployment of regular security forces “. The Conference, adds Conte, “also paid great attention to the economic dimension. In fact, during yesterday’s intense day of technical work, interesting discussions were developed on the reunification of Libyan economic and financial institutions and on the urgent structural reforms needed by the country “.The security and economic dimensions were, however, subordinated to a political convergence, the most pressing point of all. The Palermo Conference was designed with a view to reaching a consensus on when and how to bring Libyans back to the polls. Also on this front, the Italian diplomatic initiative brings home a result: all the parties agreed on the goodness of the path outlined by Salame, which provides for the convening of a National Conference at the beginning of 2019 in which all stakeholders will participate, which will follow parliamentary elections, a discussion on the reform of the Constitution and the approval of an electoral law, then the vote for the presidential elections. Salami can be said to be satisfied.“I believe”, comments the UN envoy, “that the Libyan National Conference, which we plan to hold in the first weeks of next year, is made easier by this conference because I have seen unanimous support in international society and also for the clear commitment of Libyans present. They said they will come, I feel more confident about indicating it and its possible success ”. Salami, above all, can breathe a sigh of relief because the most rebellious actor of all, Haftar, is “fully involved in the political process of the United Nations”. In short, if they are roses they will bloom. And in the Libyan mess, a flower and still a sign of hope, one of the few in a country without peace and, at least until yesterday, without prospects.

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