“Despite the nuances between different Egyptian interlocutors, Egypt is an essential actor in resolving the Libyan crisis. I am planning to meet with the Egyptian Foreign Minister in mid-September in London at a restricted meeting on Libya called by Boris Johnson. On that occasion, I will stress once again the need to join efforts in support of the United Nations and their Special Representative for Libya, Mr Salamè”. Rome and Cairo are trying their hand at making peace, as Minister of Foreign Affairs Angelino Alfano paves the way towards jointly plotting with Al Sisi a common roadmap on Libya.
Minister Alfano, will it be possible to fill the void created by the misunderstandings over the barbaric killing of the Italian researcher?
“With nothing to say on the judicial authorities’ jurisdiction over the investigations into the death of Giulio Regeni, I firmly believe that sending ambassador Cantini and intensifying our dialogue with Egypt will strengthen the government's actions to support the investigations. We are working towards a single aim: find out the truth.”
What initiatives is Italy promoting to encourage stability in Libya?
“Libya is a single country and a single people. We, for example, have aided the wounded in both the east and the west of the Country and have reinitiated our visa service, first in Tripoli and then in the east. Together with the entire international community, we recognise the government of national accord led by Mr Al-Sarraj. But we were also the first to say that General Haftar, for the support he enjoys in Libya, must have a role in resolving the crisis. It is now essential to work as one to support the UN mediation and to unify the unilateral initiatives into a single effort. On one hand, we are facilitating dialogue among and with the most influential Libyan players, including the tribes and the local communities; on the other hand, we want to shield Libya from the regional crises, such as the one that has set Qatar against Egypt and other Gulf States. The regional partners need to be constructively engaged; some have used Libya as an arena in which to expand their influence and settle some disputes within the Arab world.”
Let’s talk about the Paris summit. What did Italy achieve?
“The Paris meeting of the Heads of State and Government endorsed the validity of a format and strategy that Italy proposed a month ago with the first Conference on Transit Countries held at the Italian Foreign Ministry. Both in Rome and in Paris, Italy, France, Spain and Germany agreed that refugees must be selected and assisted in the Countries of Transit and relocated from there throughout Europe; illegal migrants must instead be offered assistance in those same Countries, along with the possibility of repatriating voluntarily to their Countries of origin and being reintegrated there.”
Migration flows are decreasing. Is this a good sign?
“Of course, the work of the Libyan Coast Guard, to which we provide cutters, training and naval support, has had a positive impact on reducing flows. Furthermore, Libyan local communities, both in the north and in the south, have understood that cooperating with Italy in fighting traffickers offers them an immediate and tangible aid, development and economic model and services for their populations. The Italian Foreign Ministry has greatly invested these last few months in emergency and cooperation projects in Libya. After the agreement that I signed in March with Niger’s Foreign Minister over the reinforcement of border controls between Niger and Libya, also the flows across the territory of Niger have significantly dropped.”
How dangerous is the continuing presence of Al Qaeda and ISIS in Libya? Is there a risk that terrorists might infiltrate the flow of migrants?
“Libya is safer now, following the military defeat of ISIS in Sirte thanks to the action of Libyan militias. But terrorism has not been completely eradicated across the Country yet, also in the light of the risk of foreign fighters returning to Libya after having fought in Syria and Iraq. We live in a context in which no Country is at zero risk and no one can exclude that a terrorist or extremist will mix with the refugees, but this is another reason why we must carry out a very careful and rigorous screening of the authentic refugees in Libya but also in Niger.”
It’s no use beating around the bush: France’s interests in North Africa are in conflict with Italy’s…
“The Paris Summit has indicated that Macron’s France not only does not intend to go on tackling these complex problems on its own but actually welcomed Italy’s line of action. Despite the very close relations between two allied and friendly Countries like Italy and France, there can still be diverging positions on issues of strategic interest: I am referring to the acquisition of the Saint Nazaire STX Shipyard by Fincantieri. However, I would like to highlight the constructive attitude that has characterised the two parties involved. On major international issues, there is very close coordination between Rome and Paris on the most serious dossiers, spanning from the fight against terrorism to the situation in Libya, where our French colleagues share our same priority aim of stabilising the Country at political level.”
What do you expect from Europe? A big Marshall Plan for Africa?
“Much has long been said about a Marshall Plan for Africa. Who would ever be against a significant European aid plan for Africa? While talks dragged on for years in Brussels, European politics burned with the incendiary rhetoric of populists who rode the wave of the fear of migrants.”
It seems that President Trump is urging for a greater presence of Italian troops in Afghanistan...
“We are the second-largest contributor to the NATO mission that provides training and assistance to Afghan forces; a contribution that is enormously appreciated by all our Allies and by the United States in particular. The Secretary-General of NATO Stoltenberg personally thanked Italy last Thursday, in a meeting on the sidelines of the Rimini Meeting. In a nutshell: we already do a lot, we do it well and we will continue to do it.”