ROME: “Stability, peace and security” are Libya’s major priorities ahead of the country’s next elections, Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush told a meeting of Italian MPs.
Speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News, El-Mangoush said that Libya’s transitional government intends to “talk to everyone the same way and put a new agenda on the table.”
“Peace and security will not be possible without regional and international support,” she said.
Libya’s first woman foreign minister addressed Italian MPs for more than an hour, and was quizzed on her Cabinet’s views on issues ranging from Libya’s relationship with Italy to tackling illegal immigration.
She said that Libya takes responsibility for violations of migrants’ rights in its territory, but urged the global community to adopt a “different and alternative approach” to stop the flow of illegal immigrants crossing the country’s southern borders.
“Illegal immigration is a broad and thorny topic. However, it is not only a Libyan issue, but a regional and an international one,” El-Mangoush said.
“I ask the international community to be practical and proactive: You need a strategy that is consistent with the current phase. Blaming the coast guard is useless. We have an uninterrupted flow of migrants coming from African states. We do not know who is coming: They could be criminals or sick.
“We are against the violation of human rights and we are sad for the condition of these migrants, but Libya is a transit country for migratory flows and our resources are limited.”
She added that “in southern Libya, we have a famine in progress. What can you ask to a people on the edge of famine? How can these people help somebody arriving from the south if they need help themselves? Please, don’t blame us, but try to understand the difficult situation we are facing. We have limited resources and outdated policies to deal with this.”
Discussing the withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya, the minister said she believes this will not happen in a day, but will be the result of long negotiations. However, she believes that the dialogue with several states involved “gives us hope.”
“For us, sovereignty is the top priority, so stability and security are in order to be able to hold democratic, clean and legal elections,” she said.
“We asked everyone, including Turkey, for cooperation to get all foreign forces off Libyan soil. Our safe future depends on the withdrawal of foreign forces.”
El-Mangoush said that the Libyan government “wishes for an even bigger role for Italy to solve Libya’s crisis, to put an end to foreign interference and help us to release all foreign forces.”
She called for Italian help in economic, medical and cultural areas, including the restoration of Tripoli’s old town and ancient buildings in the center of Benghazi damaged by war.
“Only the Italians can do a good job,” she said.