The Address | Benghazi – Libya
BENGHAZI – The Salam Center for Research and Decision-Making Support has organized a seminar on the Palermo conference on Libya that will be under the auspices of the Italian government in mid-November. The Center hosted Claudia Gazzini, the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Libya, and former advisor to the UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salamé. The Center also hosted academic, economic, and media figures and activists from Benghazi.
At the beginning of the seminar, which took place in Benghazi today, Gazzini explained the nature of the Palermo Conference, its objectives, and the topics it is expected to cover. She said that the Palermo conference will consist mainly of three sessions, which are separate sessions on the political, security, and economic tracks in the Libyan crisis. She also pointed to the importance of Libya for the Italian government, especially in the files of migration across the Mediterranean and terrorism.
For their part, a number of figures present from Benghazi expressed their disappointment regarding the Palermo conference preparations so far. The Libyan political analyst and writer Essa Abdul Gayoom said that the information received about the Palermo conference indicates that it will come out with an announcement supporting “the so-called economic reforms and security arrangements” of the Presidential Council headed by Fayez Al-Sarraj. And that the views of the other parties present at the Conference would be “pro forma and worthless.”
Abdul Gayoom also said that the Italian government and the international community should know that the Presidential Council and Fayez Al-Sarraj do not represent Libya, and they should know that he is a party to the conflict and there is no agreement on his legitimacy. “If the Palermo conference does not deal based on this fact, it will be just a play to pass the agenda of the presidential council and impose it on the other Libyan parties, as the Libyan Political Agreement was imposed years ago and showed that it had failed since day one,” he said.
For his part, Professor of Political Science Dr. Zahi Almogherabi said that the UN and international community method of dealing with the Libyan crisis “cannot be like this festival way in the Palermo conference; to invite as many Libyans as possible without any clear vision.” According to him, “the Palermo conference comes only as a reaction to the Paris talks last May between rival Libyan leaders. “
“This is just a competition between the interests of Italy and France, not necessarily the interests of the Libyan people,” Almogherabi added.
Omar Musa, a civil society activist from Benghazi, said there is a Libyan sensitivity towards what comes from Italy. “This sensitivity is due to historical reasons, especially the colonial history of Italy particularly in Cyrenaica and in Libya in general,” Musa explained.
“Italy for us in Benghazi is a party to the conflict and not a neutral facilitator. The Italian government is the one that brought Al-Sarraj to power and imposed him on Libyans. We did not elect Al-Sarraj and did not elect the presidential council. Al-Sarraj relies on Italian and foreign support because he has no real legitimacy from Libyans.” Musa said.
Musa added that the right-wing government in Italy wants to plan for the future of the Libyan people according to its far-right vision. “This is also a conflict between France and Italy and it has nothing to do with the Libyan people,” Moussa stated.
He also said that the international community has ignored the moderate voices in Cyrenaica and supported one party in the Libyan conflict against the other. “The absence of the international community in Benghazi and Cyrenaica is a serious mistake that sent a negative message to an important part of the Libyan people. Without the effective inclusion of Cyrenaica, Libya’s stability cannot be reached.” Musa concluded.
At the end of the seminar, Dr. Faraj Najem, historian and author, and president of Salam Center for Research and Decision-Making Support, expressed to The Address his hope that the voices from Benghazi would reach the international decision-makers on Libya. He noted that these views are made by experts and academics who are fully aware of the details of the situation in Libya, and the structure of Libyan society, as well as the role of balance in dealing with the Libyan crisis in achieving stability and peace desired by all.