By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 23 November 2014:
Italian Ambassador to Libya Giuseppe Maria Buccino Grimaldi paid a visit to Zuwara Saturday to . . .[restrict]thank local representatives for their efforts in the release of Italian engineer Marco Vallisa, who was abducted in the town in July.
Before visiting the port, airport and hospital, the ambassador met with the local council.
During the meeting, Grimaldi said he was grateful for the council’s help, which he described as “essential”.
A Libyan national from Zuwara who played a role in the negotiations for Vallisa’s release explained to the Libya Herald that one of the kidnappers had been arrested on the very day of the abduction wen he presented a false ID at a checkpoint .
“He was a Tunisian with a criminal record. Once we had him in custody, we were able to get crucial information from him regarding the group that had detained Vallisa,” he said.
Grimaldi said that Vallisa’s freedom would improve Libya’s image in Italy and Europe. “I will be honest; the current situation is very difficult. Libya has a terrible image abroad, yet it is a priority of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs”.
Speaking of the future, the ambassador focused on two main issues. First, he emphasized the fact that Libya must “resume political dialogue” in order to end the fighting. “We want to help you in this,” he said.
He went on to address illegal migration, which is of deep concern to the Zuwara authorities. “130,000 illegal migrants have arrived in Italy by boat since January 2014. This is a significant increase in comparison to last year,” Buccino said. It has been reported that 62,000 migrants reached Italy by boat in 2011.
Speaking about the Lampedusa tragedy in October, Grimaldi said: “This type of tragedy is unacceptable. For this reason, we have created the “Mare Nostrum Operation”. It has finally been replaced by a European mission, as our border is not only an Italian one but a European one as well.”
Hafad Ben Sasi, the head of Zuwara local council shared the same concern. “We have been working on this issue for years. There have been talks between the Libyan and Italian governments. Unfortunately, we have not seen any change on the ground. We would prefer to tackle the issue directly between the Zuwara local government and the Italian government because we are currently unable to communicate with the Libyan government.”
“Relationships with local governments are important. It’s possible to create partnerships between Italian and Libyan cities, however, the Italian government and the Zuwara local council cannot work as equal partners…unless you manage to make Zuwara the new “Singapore” in Libya,” Grimaldi replied with a smile. [/restrict]