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Italy aims to forge Libya peace with international conference

Italy is attempting to bring together opposing forces in Libya‘s long-running war with an international conference to be held in Sicily next month.

“We want to find a common solution, even though there will be different opinions around the table,” Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi told parliament on Tuesday.

He added the aim of the conference, to be held in Palermo on 12 and 13 November, was to restore peace to the North African nation and prepare for December elections.

Key players from opposing factions and abroad are expected to attend, Milanesi said.

Italy is a strong supporter of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, created in 2015 in hopes of easing the chaos that followed the 2011 NATO-backed revolution which ousted Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The GNA is opposed by a rival adminstration in the country’s east led by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Italy and France have both been keen to progress peace efforts in the country which has seen rival militias compete for authority and oil wealth amid a worsening migrant crisis, leading to fertile ground for militant groups.

A Paris conference in May led to an agreement to hold a nationwide poll on 10 December.

However, Italy and other Western and UN diplomats say the date for elections is “unrealistic“, especially after a month of intense violence near the capital Tripoli.

Milanesi said he did not expect the Palermo meeting would focus on specific dates for an election. “No deadlines will be imposed or tasks set for the Libyans,” he said.

The conference is predicted to host high-level delegations from Turkey, Gulf countries and the European Union.

However, it is not clear whether Hafter will attend. Milanesi, who met Haftar last month, said the commander had confirmed “his interest in the conference”.

Italy is keen to end the conflict in Libya, which has seen people smugglers establish bases in the war-torn country.

Italy’s new government has been eager to end people trafficking from Africa to Europe, which has seen thousands of migrants cross the Mediterranean and land on Italian shores.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has called for these routes to be “blocked off” by North African states, which have been the launch pads for migration to Italy.

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