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August 17, 2022

A peace plan for Libya

With the Libyan crisis going on, international bodies and those invested with political and military responsibility must “firmly and convincingly revive the process of identifying a peace plan for the country, through negotiation and constructive dialogue.”

“This is what Pope Benedetto XVI told the crowd of believers and pilgrims gathered at the Apostolic Palace of Castle Gandolfo near Rome, the first Sunday of the Ramadan.” Weapons did not solve the situation in Libya,” added the Pope. In fact, almost five months into the international military operations that followed the UN Resolution 1973 on enforcing a “no-fly zone,” the humanitarian crisis is escalating, only aggravated by the scorching heat of the summer and the power cuts caused by bombardments, which left the population with no means to preserve food. This is precisely why the Pope issued an appeal to a ceasefire that would end the violence and open the way to peace talks.

As it is well known, Vatican’s diplomacy was obviously worried about the NATO bombings, only partly covered by the aforementioned UN resolution. It did not condemn them in principles, as they were in line with the criteria of international solidarity of the last 20 years, but it permanently warned about the necessity of using the military force only for a short time and in relation with the intended goal. This explains even better the Pope’s appeal to take the path of negotiations, which has not been used in the past.

In fact, through the years, the call to prudence was always heard from the Christian communities spread all over the world. Last March, the Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, Innocenzo Martinelli said: “The operation was hastily launched, as it would have been more appropriate to continue along the diplomatic path. I am hoping for a change, but I think that Gaddafi will not give up.” Last week he went even farther when he told the ‘Fides’ agency, quoted by Radio Vatican, that the bombs hit civilian targets like food warehouses. At the same time, he also referred to the psychological pressure put upon the population by the “incessant flights of NATO airplanes, especially at night.”

Most analysts emphasised that the Pope’s address did not refer only to Libya, as it also mentioned the situation in Syria by launching, in this case too, “an urgent appeal to authorities and the population.” The pope clearly appealed to “establishing the peaceful cohabitation as soon as possible, and adequately answering the legitimate aspirations of citizens, and respecting their dignity, for the sake of regional stability.” “I am following with serious concern the dramatic episodes of violence that are continuously getting stronger in Syiria, which have caused many victims and much suffering,” said the Pope. “I invite Catholic believers to pray for the reconciliation effort to prevail over division and hatred.”

I cannot conclude this column without recollecting that, at the beginning of the week, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain recalled for consultations their ambassadors of Damascus, in order to put extra pressure on the Syrian regime. The international press emphasised, among other aspects, the very tough message sent by King Abdullah to President Bashar al-Assad, which describes the situation as totally unacceptable and urges him to stop the bloodshed and initiate reforms. The latest evolution is the stance taken by Turkey. Yesterday, in Damascus, the Turkish minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmet Davutoglu asked the Syrian president to put an end to the bloody repression of opposition’s protests. The reputed journalist Stefano Silvestri, the president of the Institute of International Affairs, wrote in the latest issue of Italian weekly “Oggi”: “The acting president of Syria is increasingly identifying himself with the military, and almost exclusively with them. But this is a scenario that does not leave open many spaces to politics, diplomacy or compromise. Let’s hope that the Syrian disaster will not expand to Lebanon, thus opening wide the door to civil war. If this happens, the politics of military non-intervention from abroad might be in crisis. Starting with Israel.”

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