The Italian Foreign Minister, Luigi Di Maio, stated that the release of the eighteen Sicilian fishermen held in Benghazi was made in exchange for restoring relations with the Commander-in-Chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar.
He added that Italy continues to recognize the legitimacy of the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which is also recognized by the United Nations, but Rome has maintained dialogue with the LNA in eastern Libya.
“We have always talked to Haftar, and last year we met with him nine times. But our relationship was cut off for three months after LNA forces detained the fishermen on charges of infiltrating Libyan territorial waters in September.”
He added that his lightning-quick visit last week to Benghazi, accompanied by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, was to meet Haftar at the General Command headquarters in Al-Rajma.
“To release the fishermen, we were asked to release four smugglers, which was an impossible request,” Di Maio said. The FM emphasized that in exchange for the release of the Italian citizens, they would re-establish relations with Haftar.