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Haftar in Italy to discuss terrorism and smuggling

Libyan Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar (R) and Italy's Minister of Interior Marco Minniti pose for a photo ahead of their meeting to discuss military issues in Rome, Italy on 27 September 2017 [Oded Berkowitz/Twitter]

Libyan Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar held talks in Rome this week to discuss military issues including possible cooperation in fighting terrorism and people smuggling in the North African country.

Haftar met with Italian Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti, Italian chief of defence staff General Claudio Graziano and Interior Minister Marco Minniti.

The Libyan military leader arrived in Rome yesterday in an air force plane and was received with full military honours. He was accompanied by his son Saddam.

The meetings centred on a possible collaboration between the two countries in aiding the Libyan National Army in its fight against terrorism and the battle against smuggling which has been Libya’s main challenges.

Italy has provided Libya’s coast guards with training in an effort to improving the war-torn country’s capabilities to combat smuggling and human trafficking across the Mediterranean.

The discussions set a different tone to Haftar’s previous comments in August in which he threatened to attack Italian navy vessels in Libyan waters following a deal between Rome and rival Libyan power the Presidency Council’s leader Fayez Al-Sarraj.

Read: Italy begins naval mission to help Libya curb migrant flows

Forces under Haftar’s command provide backing for a Tobruk-based administration that controls the majority of the east and south of the oil and gas-rich country.

Italy has been a strong backer of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli which rivals Haftar’s eastern alliance.  The unity government in the capital has however failed to assert its legitimacy and authority beyond the capital city.

Haftar continued his ministry tour by meeting with defence and interior ministers at the Palazzo Baracchini. Pinotti stressed Rome’s full support for the efforts of UN special envoy Ghassam Salamé to make the Libyan political dialogue work and reiterated the country’s belief that there could be no military solution to the country’s crisis.

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