Italy PM Draghi urges Libya to maintain ceasefire

Italy’s new prime minister, on his first official trip abroad, also lauded Tripoli’s efforts in stemming refugee crossings to Europe.

During his first overseas trip since taking office in February, Mario Draghi held talks with Libya's interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on Tuesday [Nada Harib/AP Photo]

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Tuesday urged the Libyan government to ensure that the country’s ceasefire is maintained ahead of elections scheduled for later this year.

In his first overseas trip since taking office in February, Draghi held talks with Libya’s interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh in Tripoli.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Draghi said it was a “prerequisite” for a ceasefire signed in October last year to “continue and be strictly observed”, adding the two leaders had also spoken about immigration and economic cooperation between the two countries.

Draghi was following in the footsteps of other European leaders who had recently met with Libya’s new interim government.

The administration took office last month with a mandate to improve services in a nation torn apart by civil war for nearly a decade, and prepare for an election on December 24.

That Libya, a former Italian colony, was Draghi’s first official trip abroad as premier was evidence of solid, historic ties, he said.

“There’s a desire for a future, to restart quickly,” Draghi said.

Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed.

The country was in recent years split between rival east and west-based administrations, each backed by different armed groups and foreign governments.

Italy was a supporter of Libya’s previous United Nations-backed government that was also based in Tripoli.

However, that government failed to gain acceptance in the country’s east, where renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar holds sway, backed by countries including Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

‘Humanitarian’ issue of sea crossings

Draghi lauded Libya’s efforts to prevent migrants and refugees from undertaking perilous sea crossings in order to reach Europe.

He said the European Union was invested in the issue, adding it was “not just geopolitical but humanitarian”.

Italy, as an EU member, has cooperated with local Libyan institutions to try to prevent people from undertaking sea crossings to Europe.

Many of those departing from Libyan shores hope to reach Italy.

In recent years, the EU has partnered with Libya’s coast guard and other local groups to try and stem the crossings.

Rights groups, however, say those policies leave migrants and refugees at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centres rife with abuses.

Draghi’s trip came amid criticism by Italian journalists and legislators over the wiretapping of reporters’ phone calls during investigations into Libya-based human trafficking and humanitarian rescue groups.

The investigations date back a few years ago when former Italian government officials were cracking down on refugee rescue ships in the central Mediterranean.

For his part, Dbeibah said the pair agreed to take steps towards fully resuming commercial air traffic between their countries, and make it easier for Libyans to apply for visas to Italy.

Source: News Agencies