Rome, 4 February 2013:
A breakthrough in the issue of some €600 million in loans claimed by Italian companies working in Libya . . .[restrict]during the Qaddafi era is expected shortly. It is thought that an announcement will be made during Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s visit to Italy in the coming weeks.
This was indicated by Foreign and International Cooperation Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz who had talks in Rome today, Monday, with his Italian counterpart, Giulio Terzi. The two ministers met on the sidelines of a meeting on UN Security Council reform.
“We are working hard to reach an agreement”, said Abdulaziz after the talks. “In the coming weeks we could have some good news.” He added that he believed “concrete steps could be taken” when Zeidan arrives.
Negotiations on the issue of loans by Italian firms to Libya “are proceeding satisfactorily”, agreed Terzi, according to a report from the Italian Foreign Ministry. It said that Abdulaziz had given “major indications” on the issue.
The loans have been an irritant in Libyan-Italian commerical relations ever since the liberation of Libya despite the rapid growth in new business. Last month, at the Libya Italy Economic Forum in Rome, attended by Congress President Mohamed Magarief and a major Libyan delegation, Terzi cited the loans as being among the challenges to the presence of Italian companies in Libya along with “physical and judicial security”.
In November, however, Zeidan indicated that Libya would repay them. “We will provide for the fulfillment of our pledges but we are bound by circumstances”, he said. “Italy is our top partner and we mean to preserve our relations. We will do everything possible to facilitate a solution to the problems inherited from the past.”
Terzi was quoted today by the ministry statement saying that his country was interested “in reactivating the programmes that involved Italian firms, along with training and institution building for Libyan administrations”.
For his part, Abdulaziz said Italy was “a key country for political and material support” to Libya.
Security was also discussed at the meeting, with Terzi saying that Italy “wants to contribute in a concrete way with a system of border management”.
However, Abdulaziz said that “the situation is not so serious. We have had some isolated incidents, but life goes on”. He hoped that reports would not put off Italian firms, calling for a “greater presence” by them.
Nonetheless he stressed the importance of the upcoming conference in Paris on 12 February. “Without security no environment can hope to encourage investments”, and without security “we cannot build our democratic institutions” or “an environment open to investments”.
On the crisis in Mali, the two countries said that they “politically support” the operation set in motion by the international community there and sanctioned by a UN resolution and, above all, the “strengthening of the ECOWAS initiative”, which “should contribute to the rapid stabilisation of the entire Sahel”.