Haftar expected at Palermo conference


Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte expects Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar to join a two-day conference in Palermo to push a new UN plan to stabilise Libya, he was cited as saying by a newspaper.

Italian officials scrambled at the weekend to secure Haftar’s attendance at the conference organised by Rome. If he shows up, it will be his first meeting with the Tripoli-based Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj since a Paris summit in May, analysts said.
“I expect Haftar to be present since there is no doubt he is one of the decisive players of stabilisation of his country,” Conte said in an interview with Italian daily La Stampa.

Conte dismissed rivalry with France on how to handle the Libyan conflict, which has raged in the oil producer since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Italy and France “share the same viewpoint and objectives,” Conte said adding he spoke often with French President Emmanuel Macron, the last time on Saturday, and both countries worked closely setting up the conference in Sicily.
“We face a common challenge and the risks of further deteriorations of the crisis weigh over all of us,” Conte said.

During the Paris May summit, the main Libyan rivals pledged to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in December. Last week UN Envoy Ghassan Salame abandoned the plan due to ongoing fighting and political deadlock.