July 18-25: French Initiative in Libya Political Settlement Breeds Italian Discontent

Jul 26, 2017 | International actors

On 25 July, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt announced the addition of six Libyan entities and two individuals to their list of Qatar-funded ‘terrorists’. The joint statement declared Alnabaa TV, Tanasuh TV, the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council, al-Saraya Media Center, Boshra News Agency and Rafallah Sahati Brigade and two Libyan nationals, Ahmed al-Hisnawi and al-Saadi Nawfali, as having played an active role in spreading chaos and devastation in Libya. The new additions join a list that includes the Grand Mufti Sadiq al-Ghariani, Ali Sallabi, Hakim Belhaj, Ismail Sallabi and Mehdi al-Harati, in addition to the Benghazi Defense Brigades.

On 25 July, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a meeting between Fayez al-Serraj, the head of the Presidential Council (PC) and Government of National Accord (GNA), and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, General Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) at La Celle-Saint-Cloud outside Paris.

The meeting is part of a new French initiative to broker a settlement between the two parties. Italy is reportedly unsettled by Macron’s actions and various Italian politicians and media outlets have been vocally critical of the French initiative—expressing fear that Italy will be ousted from its traditional role as the leader of European diplomacy in Libya.

According to a draft statement from the French government, Serraj and Haftar have agreed to a ceasefire and to work towards holding ‘presidential and parliamentary elections as soon as possible,’ under UN supervision. The newly appointed, Lebanese UN Envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, also attended the meeting.

Key political players from Misrata such as Abdurrahman Swehli, head of the High Council of State (HCS), and Ahmed Metig, have signaled that the new political road map could lead to a sidelining of Misrata in Libyan power politics. Any such marginalization of Misrata could also be a major blow to Italian interests in Libya, given that Italy is closely allied with Misrata on issues such as illegal migration, power brokering deals between tribes in south Libya, and other commercial interests such as the Italian-led AENAS consortium awarded direct contract to rebuild Tripoli airport.