Conference on Libya, the day after

[BB] The Conference on Libya was held on 12 and 13 November in Palermo, Sicily. For some pundits the symbolic image of the summit, the handshake between the president of the Libyan national government, Fayez al Sarraj, and General Khalifa Haftar should be seen as a success. According to other commentators, the appointment has to be considered a failure.

But what was decided at the summit, which was meant to find a road to peace in Libya?

During the final press conference, Italian PM Giuseppe Conte, with the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations Ghassan Salamé, defined the meeting as a “milestone in the common struggle to restore peace, security and prosperity to the Libyan people”. The participants at the summit reiterated the importance of a stable and democratic environment, also in view of the elections to be held next spring, for the Libyan people. To do this, Conte explained, “a broad list of concrete initiatives was signed, including some allocations for example for the elections”, to promote conditions of stability and peace.

Most of the “rumors” about the international meeting concerned the initial absence of General Khalifa Haftar, who leads the Libyan armed forces, who arrived in Palermo on Monday evening, that is after the beginning of the summit.

For the Italian political opposition, the Libya Conference was a flop, both due to the absence of many leaders and to the failure to reach a binding agreement. The summit nevertheless produced a conclusive text, following the one which was agreed at the last summit held in Paris in May.

The role played by Turkey has also been in some way controversial: Ankara’s delegation left the summit early, presumably due to the lack of an invitation to the informal meeting in which the UN road map for the Libyan elections of spring 2019 was discussed. The meeting involved al-Sarraj, Salamé, Conte, the Egyptian vice president Ismail, the French minister Le Drian, the Russian delegation, the President of the Council of Europe Donald Tusk, the Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, the Tunisian President Essebsi, and Haftar.

Apart from the polemics and political balances, the theme of human rights has been the most notable omission of the summit.On the civil society front, several NGOs have criticized the international summit. Oxfam said that “it was decided to turn heads on the other side, not taking any concrete commitment to respect the human rights of thousands of migrants, men, women and children, who every day are victims of the most horrendous torture and abuses in Libyan detention centers. On the contrary, the agenda of the Conference focused essentially on the formation of the Libyan regular security forces and on the unification of some economic and financial institutions within the country”.


Meanwhile, what is certain is that the day after the end of the convention in Palermo, the armed conflict immediately resurfaced in Libya, with militias that faced each other in the area of the airport of Tripoli. Clashes then followed by the ceasefire, on 15 November. Reasons of this new attack by the Seventh Brigade, according to official sources close to former premier Khalifa Ghweil, would be, as reported by the Italian press agency Ansa, just the disappointment for the conference in Palermo that would not have imposed an expulsion of the militia tripoline pro Sarraj that the rebel formation and its allies had tried to achieve.

And just a few days after the conference, a new humanitarian case broke out when a merchant ship stopped in the port of Misurata: Amnesty International asked the Libyan, European and Panamanian authorities to ensure that “at least 79 migrants and refugees on board are not forced to disembark to be taken to a Libyan detention center where they would risk torture and further violence “.More information here: