On 22 June, Prime Minister Mario Draghi welcomed in Rome the President of the Presidential Council of Libya, Mohammed Yunis Ahmed Al-Menfi. It was Al-Menfi’s first official visit to Rome after his appointment in March, following the creation of the new Government of National Unity. After meeting Draghi, Al-Menfi was received by the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella, becoming the first Libyan authority to visit the Quirinale in ten years.
As stated in a note from Palazzo Chigi, Al-Menfi’s talks with Draghi and Mattarella are “part of the Italian initiatives aimed at supporting the stabilization process of the country in the context of the intra-Libyan process under the aegis of the UN ”, especially in view of the second Berlin Conference on Libya, which was held the following day, 23 June.
Discussions focused in particular on the collaboration with the interim executive authority to support the next phases of the institutional transition in the country, in particular the elections scheduled for next 24 December, as well as on the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement and in general, the relaunch of the bilateral partnership between Italy and Libya.
The final press conference with Mattarella was held in a cordial atmosphere, despite Al-Menfi’s visit being preceded by a diplomatic incident: the day before the visit, Al-Menfi had sent an urgent letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Libyan Government of National Unity, Najla Al-Mangoush, complaining about what he considered to be Italian interference in Libyan internal affairs, due to the organization in Rome of a Conference for national reconciliation between the tribes of southern Libya.
“We ask the Italian side to respect the principles of internal sovereignty, to observe good neighborly relations and not meddle in Libyan state affairs“, read the letter. As Massimiliano Boccolini explains in an article published on Formiche.net, however, even if Al-Menfi addressed Italy, in reality the message was meant for the Libyan Foreign Ministry. The Libyan president felt overruled on a topic of particular importance for his office. Furthermore, the Italian Foreign Ministry promptly denied its involvement in the organization of the Conference, promoted in fact by Italian non-profit organization Ara Pacis, which has been involved for years in the post-conflict reconciliation of the southern region of the country.
The cordial atmosphere of Al-Menfi’s visit to Rome made it clear that the diplomatic incident was rapidly settled. In fact, Italy remains a fundamental partner for the reconstruction of Libya, and it is in everyone’s interest to maintain a productive and mutually respectful relation.