Statement delivered by Italy at the Security Council meeting in Arria Formula on ‘Addressing the Impact of the Departure of Foreign Fighters and Mercenaries from Libya on the Sahel Region” —
I would like to thank the A3+1 for this important and timely initiative. I also want to thank the briefers for the insightful remarks.
Italy wishes to align itself with the statement that will be delivered by the European Union on behalf of the European Union and its Member States and would like to add some remarks in its national capacity.
The progress towards peace and security registered in Libya since the signature of the ceasefire agreement in October 2020 clearly show that even seemingly intractable divisions can be bridged through dialogue and trust building.
The formation of an interim unity government expression of the whole of Libya and sanctioned by the groundbreaking vote of confidence by the House of Representatives is a welcome result, barely imaginable only a few months ago. This and other positive developments on the ground are undeniable; it would however be naive to ignore that the process toward a lasting political solution and a stable security situation is still fraught with challenges.
Sticking to the commitment of holding parliamentary and presidential elections on 24th December, re-opening the coastal road, approving the budget and, above all, ensuring the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries are all pieces of the same puzzle, challenges to be tackled in a synergic way in a mutually reinforcing process.
Italy is contributing to these efforts, both at bilateral, European and multilateral level. As a tangible example of our ongoing commitment, since the formation of the unified interim authority we started a process to relaunch the strategic partnership with Libya in the many fields of common interest, as a means to contribute to the stabilization and the economic recovery of the country. As part of such efforts, we decided to strengthen our diplomatic presence in all the Libyan regions: we reactivated the Italian Consulate General in Bengasi, which will be operational soon, and we are planning to establish an honorary consulate in Sebha. The Italian institutional presence in the South is a tangible sign of our long-lasting attention to the Fezzan region, an area characterized by highly permeable borders, where the Italian development cooperation will continue to operate by funding developments projects. Moreover,
Italy will continue, along with fellow European Member States, to provide its support to Libya through EUBAM and Irini. We also reiterate our unconditional support to UNSMIL, which has already a component advising on DDR and SSR, and to the UN at large, should it be entrusted with an enhanced role in DDR activities.
although the October ceasefire agreement contained a clause for the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign fighters within three months, their removal, more than four months after the deadline expired, is still stalling. Notwithstanding the provisions of two subsequent Security Council resolutions, namely Res. 2570 and Res. 2571, foreign fighters and mercenaries have not been pulled out from the frontlines. The presence of those combatants indeed increases the terrorist threat and the risk of destabilization of neighboring countries starting with the Sahel region, hence posing the threat of plunging the wider region into a spiral of violence.
While we all acknowledge that the withdrawal of foreign combatants and mercenaries from Libya is key to pave the way to a democratic, sovereign Libya free of foreign interference, such an essential objective should not come at the expense of the security and stability of the neighboring Countries.
The stability of the Sahel region is crucial for Italy and the European Union, given the considerable two-way spillover effects between the Sahel instability and that of the wider Mediterranean region and of the Gulf of Guinea. What happened in Mali and Chad proved once again how close such a link is, underlining the increasing need for coordination and dialogue between stabilization initiatives aimed at those regions.
Following the priorities included in our Africa Strategy, the EU Sahel Strategy and the Sahel Coalition Action Plan, Italy’s contribution to the stability of the region aims at promoting an adequate balance between security, civil support and Development Aid with a view to strengthening local institutions’ capacities to face local challenges.
We have increased our diplomatic presence in the region over the last few years, by opening up new Embassies in Niger and Burkina Faso, which will soon followed by Mali and, in a later phase, Chad, as soon as political and security conditions will permit. We are also providing bilateral assistance to the G5 countries’ security forces with capacity building and training activities. We are currently beefing up our presence in the Task Force Takuba, with a significant contribution in terms of troops and military assets that are so far focused on medical evacuation. Also, Italy has been a traditional contributor to MINUSMA and to all the European Union civil and military missions in the region.
We are therefore ready to stand alongside the countries of the Sahel and Sudan in tackling instability and countering any adverse effect that may arise from the process of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of all foreign fighters, mercenaries, and armed groups from Libya.
A first opportunity to tackle thoroughly the issue of withdrawal of foreign mercenaries along with its ramifications in the wider region will be the second Berlin Conference scheduled next Wednesday. Italy hopes that this initiative will be the lynchpin for the quick launch of new effective measures. Further delays in effectively addressing this issue could undermine efforts to advance the implementation of the ceasefire and to further the political transition.