By Catherine Philp
Efforts to solve the crisis in Libya have failed because of “too many mediators”, the Italian foreign minister has said. He is calling on other nations to abandon freelance negotiations and let the United Nations take over.
Angelino Alfano said that interventions by western, European and Russian envoys with different interests had added to the chaos and stalled the process of uniting rivals.
“Up until now we’ve had too many mediators. Too many negotiators, too many negotiations, too many mediations and few results,” he said. “We must turn the page.”
Mr Alfano spoke after a meeting of foreign ministers in London designed to unite efforts behind Ghassan Salamé, the UN special envoy to Libya.
There have been several separate peace initiatives and conferences held in capitals from Brazzaville to Paris, often infuriating Italy, the country bearing the brunt of migrants from Libya. Senior figures in Rome have raised concerns about British and French interference in Italian efforts to control migration.
Mr Alfano denied acusations that Italy had paid bribes to Libyan militias to halt the flow of migrants, which has slowed over the summer. He said, however, that Italy had no option but to take unilateral action because Europe had failed to share the burden.
“Until now Italy had to act on its own,” he said. “The agreements that were reached at a European level were more concerned with solidarity than joint financial commitments. And despite it being concerned only with solidarity, we did not get solidarity because the relocation mechanism has failed.”
He added: “We are not relinquishing the idea that a European action can still be useful . . . Since solidarity has failed, we can aim at joined financial investments. Europe can restore the trust.”
Italy’s centre-left government is desperate to show that it can counter migration to head off anti-immigrant feeling before next year’s election. Populist anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic parties such as the Five Star Movement are trying to use migration as a issue to upend Italian politics.
Mr Alfano, who describes himself as “a staunch pro-European”, acknowledged that the crisis and Europe’s response to it had helped to dent Italian faith in the union. But he said: “I am convinced the majority of Italians are still pro-European. Not as much as before but it’s still the absolute majority of Italians who think that.”
Catherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent, The Times of London. Citizen of Scotland, UK, Europe and the world.