CORRECTS REMARKS OF ITALIAN FM ON THE EASTMED PIPELINE PROJECT; REVISED HEADLINE
By Baris Seckin
ROME (AA) - A cease-fire in Libya is an indispensable condition for political dialogue, according to the foreign minister of Italy, the country in Europe closest across the Mediterranean from Libya.
Amid rising tension in the Eastern Mediterranean due to hydrocarbon exploration activities and the Libya issue, on Saturday Luigi Di Maio told Anadolu Agency about Italy’s policies and views on the latest developments in the region on the eve of talks in Berlin on Libya due to start Sunday.
On hydrocarbon exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, Di Maio said these activities brought new possibilities for the region's energy security, especially for Italy and the EU.
He said there must be a spirit of cooperation to make energy resources in the Mediterranean help the development and growth of all countries in the region.
Di Maio stressed the importance of the Berlin talks to solve the Libya issue and bring a sense of peace to the region.
Highlighting the significance of the recent cease-fire in Libya, which began a week ago, Di Maio called it a positive but fragile step.
"However, a cease-fire is an indispensable condition for political dialogue. Therefore, the Turkish-Russian proposal, which stopped the hostilities among the groups in the region for a while despite it being temporary, is of course welcomed. The cease-fire is the first and important step in the right direction," he said.
On the Berlin talks, he added that working together is very important to end the hostilities.
On last week’s cease-fire negotiations in Moscow, Di Maio said the Italian government noted who signed the agreement and who did not.
"We noted the signatures of Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the UN-recognized government in Libya, and Khalid al-Mishri, Libya's chairman of the High Council of State. But the rejection of [Khalifa] Haftar of the agreement showed how complex the Libyan equation is," he said.
Di Maio also added that he hopes that Haftar will confirm his commitment to the cease-fire with a sense of responsibility.
Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: one in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the other in Tripoli, which enjoys the UN and international recognition.
On Jan. 12, the warring sides of the Libyan conflict announced a cease-fire in response to the call of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On Monday, the sides in the Libyan conflict gathered in Moscow to discuss a more formal cease-fire, but after al-Sarraj signed the deal, Haftar refused to do the same, and left Russia.
- Italy's expectations
Di Maio said Italy hopes that the countries which attend the Berlin conference take the first operational steps for a permanent cease-fire.
He said “foreign interventions” in Libya should be stopped and all countries should abide by the weapons blockade.
Di Maio added that an international mission to monitor the cease-fire should be established.
- Italy proposes tripartite mechanism
On possible peace solutions in Libya, Di Maio proposed a tripartite mechanism between Turkey, Italy, and Russia.
Stressing the constructive and effective role of Turkey and Russia, Di Maio said it is very important to deepen and strengthen joint consultations with Ankara and Moscow in light of Italy's national interests in Libya.
Asked why Italy did not sign the final statement of the Jan. 15 Cairo meeting on Libya, Di Maio called the statement extremely unbalanced against Turkey and the al-Sarraj government.
“Power is related to balance, and all efforts should be directed towards supporting the Berlin conference,” he said.
On Jan. 15, the Egyptian government held a meeting to discuss the latest developments in Libya, where the foreign ministers of Egypt, France, Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration published a statement. Though Di Maio attended on behalf of Italy, he did not sign the statement.
- EastMed Pipeline Project
On the Eastern Mediterranean (EastMed) Pipeline Project, Maio said the project could be a feasible plan in the medium and long term, but only after evaluating its cost and construction process.
Asked why Italy did not attend the EastMed signing ceremony in early January despite being invited, Di Maio said the project should prove that it is economically sustainable.
“I believe that this infrastructure, which can play a positive role in diversifying European resources, must prove that it can attract the necessary capital for its construction and it can be economically sustainable,” he said.
On Jan. 1, Greece, Israel, and the Greek Cypriot administration signed a pact to build a 1,900-kilometer (1,180-mile) natural gas pipeline from Israel through Southern Cyprus, Crete, Greece, and ultimately to Italy.
- Relationships between Turkey, Italy
On political developments between Turkey and Italy, Di Maio said the two countries have a key role to stop irregular migration influx and to provide security in the Middle East.
“Despite disagreements in the Eastern Mediterranean in recent months, Turkey is an important NATO member and it is a key actor for Italy and the EU,” he said.
He added that cooperating with Turkey to discuss security and migration issues is very important for the Middle East as well as generally.
He also stressed bilateral ties between Turkey and Italy, saying the two big countries of the Mediterranean traditionally have strong political and trade ties.
Asked about June’s UEFA EURO 2020 football match between the Turkish and Italian national teams, Di Maio said he believes that “friendship” will win the match.
Di Maio concluded by congratulating Anadolu Agency on it celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
* Writing by Fahri Aksut