Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Palermo Conference on Libya Ends with No Clear Results

Palermo Conference on Libya Ends with No Clear Results

Wednesday, 14 November, 2018 - 06:45
Italian PM Giuseppe Conte (C) posing with GNA head Fayez Sarraj (L) and LNA commander Khalifa Haftar in Palermo. (AFP)
Palermo (Italy), Cairo – Shawki al-Rayyes and Khaled Mahmoud
The Palermo conference on Libya concluded on Tuesday as “half a failure and half a success,” Arab sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The meeting was aimed at finding ways to end the Libyan crisis, but Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar did not attend the main conference. He held talks on its sidelines with a number of officials, including Government of National Accord (GNA) head Fayez al-Sarraj.

Tuesday’s proceedings at the conference saw Turkey’s surprise withdrawal from the talks after what it described as a “major disappointment.”

Egyptian and Libyan sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and Haftar had adamantly rejected Turkey’s participation at a small summit on the sidelines of the conference, prompting its delegation to withdraw in protest.

Sisi and Haftar were also notably absent from the group photo taken of the participants.

Head of the Turkish delegation stated that any meeting on Libya that excludes Ankara will be “unproductive” in finding a solution to the crisis. He later told local Libyan media that the North African country does not need more foreign meddling.

The Palermo conference stumbled at Haftar’s refusal to attend talks that also included representatives from Turkey and Qatar, sources close to the LNA chief told Asharq Al-Awsat. He has accused Ankara and Doha of meddling in Libyan affairs and supporting terrorist groups.

He also refused to meet with Muslim Brotherhood leaderships that were also present at the Italy conference.

Haftar told Libyan television that he traveled to Palermo to only meet with heads of states who were invited there by Rome.

“I will not participate in the Palermo conference even if I remained there for 100 hours. I have nothing to do with it,” he added.

On his meeting with Sarraj, Italian sources said that the talks were possible through a mediation by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Haftar was quoted as saying after the talks: “There is no need to change the horse while crossing the river”, meaning he could be in support of Sarraj remaining in his post until presidential and parliamentary elections are held in 2019.

UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame is hoping to hold the polls in spring 2019.

Conte and the UN envoy said all parties had agreed to a UN conference planned for early 2019 to prepare for elections to end the crisis.

Salame said Tuesday that Haftar was committed to the UN plan on Libya and of holding a national conference in early 2019 ahead of the elections.

Sarraj, for his part, called for ending the transitional phase in Libya and holding elections.

Sisi, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Salame, European Council President Donald Tusk and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also attended the Sarraj-Haftar meeting, hosted by Conte ahead of roundtable talks, which were to have included Turkey.

Haftar’s meeting with Sarraj Tuesday was the first between them since May when they met in Paris at another conference aimed at pushing forward efforts to resolve the Libyan crisis.

Editor Picks