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Di Maio denies striking a deal with Haftar in exchange for fishermen

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio denied the rumoured deal between his government and Khalifa Haftar that four Libyans convicted of human trafficking were exchanged for the 18 Italian fishermen held in Benghazi. 

In an interview with Aki Italian News Agency, Di Maio stated that the fishermen were released for nothing in return and praised the Italian intelligence services and diplomatic corps for their vital role in the liberation of the Italian natives.

The Foreign Minister also stated that initially, Haftar’s side had asked for the release of four Libyans in Italy convicted of human trafficking but that it was unacceptable to release criminals and that a more moderate solution was found in resuming bilateral relations instead.

“The ties that were broken when the fishermen were taken have been restored. ” Added Di Maio. “Our fishermen were released by authorities in eastern Libya without any cost in return.”

In regards to the rumoured deal that took place for the release of the fishermen reported by Asharq Al-Awsat new agency, Di Maio emphasised the importance of separating judicial authorities from that executive and that no such deal happened as it is not possible under Italian constitution to bargain in that way.

The Italian government earlier this week announced the release of the 18 fishermen held in Benghazi for over three months on charges of entering Libyan waters illegally.

The Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Foreign minister flew to Benghazi for the announcement and met with field marshal Khalifa Haftar.

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