Italy urges EU to ready plan for Libya refugee flight, work on joint initiative

Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi, right, shakes hands with the UN special envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame, as they meet at the Foreign Ministry in Rome. (Angelo Carconi/ANSA via AP)
Updated 24 April 2019
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Italy urges EU to ready plan for Libya refugee flight, work on joint initiative

  • Moavero was speaking at joint news conference in Rome with Ghassan Salame
  • Moavero says situation in Libya required a lot of “time and support”

ROME: Italy’s government has written to the European Union asking it to ready a plan of action to deal with a possible flight of refugees from the armed conflict in Libya, Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero said on Wednesday.

Moavero was speaking at a joint news conference in Rome after talks with the UN envoy on Libya, Ghassan Salame.

He also said that the European Union was working on developing a Europe-wide initiative for the country, as the bloc fears the emergence of fresh terrorist activities.

Moavero said the situation in Libya required a lot of “time and support.”

Salame said that contacts had been established and he hoped to see results before the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan begins in early May.

"I hope that the contacts we have established or re-established among the two belligerents can bear fruit before the holy month of Ramadan," Salame told a news conference.

Salame, visiting Rome to enlist support from Libya's former colonial power for a possible ceasefire, did not elaborate on the nature of the contacts with the two warring groups.

Italy, whose southern islands lie very close to the North African country's coast, fears a mass exodus of refugees from Libya which is already a jumping-off point for boatloads of African migrants seeking to a new life in Europe.

Libya has been in a state of chaos since dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011 with Western intervention and the latest flare-up threatens to disrupt oil flows and leave a power vacuum that militants could exploit. 


Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 21 May 2019
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Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.