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Libya risks becoming "another Somalia", Italy warns ahead of new round of talks

Libya risks becoming a "failed state" like Somalia, if its warring factions will not reach an agreement in the next few weeks, Italy's Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni recently warned.

The Italian foreign minister made his remarks in an interview with Turin-based La Stampa newspaper on Monday, shortly ahead of a new round of negotiations due to begin in Morocco on Wednesday.

According to an analyst, this appeal would reflect Italy's growing worries for the volatile situation of the North African country, which is already affecting the stability of the Mediterranean area.

"In his message, Gentiloni expresses Italy's will to find shared solutions to the Libyan crisis, which poses a double threat in terms of national security and human trafficking," Gabriele Iacovino, analysts' coordinator and North Africa expert with Rome-based Center for International Studies (CeSI), told Xinhua.

In his interview with the daily, Gentiloni stressed the need to "insist on negotiations", and that diplomacy was racing against the time.

"Time is crucial and it is not unlimited, particularly now that the presence of the ISIS (the Islamic State group) in Sirte has taken alarming proportions," the Italian foreign minister warned.

If peace talks see no progress in coming weeks, Europe would find itself with "another Somalia two steps from its coasts, and we would be forced to react differently", Gentiloni specified.

In this worst-case scenario, the international community's goal would "no longer be stabilising the country, but containing terrorism", the minister warned.

The analyst Gabriele Iacovino said he had the same opinion on the issue.

Libya was engulfed in chaos and fighting since former leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011, and according to the expert that happened for a "lack of institutional reconstruction" after the NATO-backed war.

The country turned into a key hub for the trafficking of thousands of migrants bound for Europe, and while the United Nations-brokered peace talks languished last year, the Islamic State group set up bases in the country, and recently seized control of the coastal city of Sirte.

"This new actor on the ground makes the Libyan situation even more urgent: ISIS's presence adds a risk to Italy's security, at least because the group has the goal of attacking the West," Iacovino explained.

For all these reasons, "Libya appears more and more to be a 'failed state' like Somalia," he said.

If that happens, the country might become a useful heaven for terrorist groups with regional interests and for those terrorist organizations that can threaten Europe and Italy's security.

"Italy is calling attention on the Libyan scenario because it has been repeatedly put aside by the international community," Iacovino said.

"Especially after the U. S. started paying less attention to the Mediterranean area, Italy has found itself increasingly alone with its priorities in foreign policy," he said.

Italy is Libya's former colonial power, and even more relevant, Italy is the European Union (EU)'s closest country to the Libyan shores, together with Malta.

However, the analyst also shared the moderate optimism Gentiloni and the United Nations envoy for Libya Bernardino Leon expressed on July 21, after a meeting in Rome.

On that occasion, Leon declared he was finally seeing "the light at the end of the tunnel".

Both him and Gentiloni sounded mildly hopeful that a more comprehensive deal might be reached, after a pact for a national unity government had been signed early in July by a number of Libyan factions including municipal councils, and the Tobruk-based parliament.

Yet, the rival Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC) did not sign the deal.

"The UN-brokered negotiations have undoubtedly made progress lately, compared to only 6 months ago when they seemed to be stuck, and the involvement of Libyan municipalities was particularly relevant," the analyst said.

"The optimism of July was justified, since the previous situation was much worse ... The problem is now the mismatch between this kind of negotiations and the situation on the ground, which is still very fragmented".

A top priority of the next round of talks would be to have the Tripoli-based GNC sign the pact for the national unity government, although this document does not foresee any role for the GNC in a possible transition after the war, according to the expert.

"The point is: at the core of the Libyan crisis there are several entities who all want power, and until you find a way to divide that power among them, any solution will be hard to reach," Iacovino said.

[Source: By Alessandra Cardone, Xinhua, Rome, 18Aug15]

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Libya War
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