Military honours for Hafter in Rome defence ministry talks

By Vanessa Tomassini.

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Khalifa Hafter with Italian defence minister Roberta Pinotti (Photo: Italian defence ministry)

Milan, 26 September 2017:

The Libyan National Army’s Field Marshall Khalifa Hafter had talks in Rome today on military issues including possible cooperation, first with Italian chief of defence staff General Claudio Graziano and then with Italian defence minister Roberta Pinotti. He also met with Italian interior minister Marco Minniti who earlier this month had invited him to the Italian capital.

Having flown to Rome yesterday in a Libyan air force plane, he was in civilian dress this morning when he arrived at the ministry’s offices but was received with full military honours.

The meeting with Graziano focused on possible collaboration in the LNA’s fight against terrorism and the battle against smuggling. The two talked also about immigration and the Italian military’s support for the Libyan coast guard as well as the role of the Italian field hospital in Misrata. The atmosphere was much more collaborative and cordial than had been the case before the Minniti’s icebreaking visit to Benghazi earlier this month. In August, Hafter had threatened to attack Italian navy vessels in Libyan waters following Rome’s deal with Presidency Council leader Faiez Serraj allowing them in.

After the session with Graziano, Hafter had an hour-long meeting at Palazzo Baracchini with Pinotti in. She is reported to have stressed upon the field marshal that Rome fully supported the efforts of UN special envoy Gassam Salamé to make the Libyan political dialogue work and believed that there could be no military solution to the country’s crisis. She also insisted that Italy fully respected Libyan sovereignty and that any initiative on collaboration would only be in response to a prior Libyan request.

For his part, Haftar is reported as thanking the Italians for providing treatment in Italian hospitals for LNA soldiers wounded in the fight against the militants but also impressing on them the fact that almost seven year after the 2011 revolution started, ordinary Libyan people were suffering.

Although there was no announcement about it, Minniti later divulged that he too had had talks with Hafter during the day.

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