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Did Libya gain anything from the Palermo conference?

26 6 31

The Palermo conference on Libya went ahead as scheduled — 12/13 November — with all of the local protagonists present, along with many regional and international players. Italy finally had its show, just like the French did in Paris in May, and everybody is happy; or are they? A MEMO article, on 8 November, predicted that Palermo will neither produce any tangible results that would alleviate the misery of ordinary Libyans, nor bring peace and stability among the factions.

The gathering failed to deliver any breakthrough in terms of practical steps to tackle the conflict in Libya other than the usual handshakes between different Libyan parties represented there. It reaffirmed the commitment of the participants to support the UN plan for the country which is yet to bear fruit.

From the start, the meeting was overshadowed by speculation about the presence of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and whether he would attend or not. A lot of Italian political manoeuvring went on to ensure his participation given his crucial role, particularly in eastern Libya. Until the last minute it was not clear if Haftar would attend personally or send his senior political advisor, Fadel Al-Deeb. However, the senior officer duly appeared at the opening reception hosted by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Of course, Haftar could not have stayed away as that would have made it look as if he does not support peace efforts and a political settlement in Libya. Italy also knew that without him, the political show it wanted to stage would be far less glamorous.


© Middle East Monitor