The New Arab Logo

Breaking News
Libya 'shoots at' Italy fishing boats, detains crew Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Libya 'shoots at' Italy fishing boats, detains crew

Libyan officials boarded the boats [File Photo: Getty]

Date of publication: 11 October, 2018

Share this page:
  • 0

  • twitter
Italian media said Libyan coastguard fired shots at Italian fishing boats before seizing the vessels and detaining their crew on Wednesday.
The Libyan coastguard fired shots at Italian fishing boats before seizing the vessels and detaining their crew, Italian media said on Wednesday.

The boats, both from Mazara del Vallo in Sicily, came under fire some 29 nautical miles off the North African coast late on Tuesday in an area that Libya insists is an exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the town's mayor was quoted as saying.

Libyan officials boarded the boats and ordered the captains to head to the port of Ras Al Hilal, mayor Nicola Cristaldi said.

The vessels, with crews of six and seven respectively, were boarded "in waters that Libya unilaterally and illegitimately considers its own," Cristaldi said, adding that no one was hurt.

"The Libyans... opened fire on the crew... On defenceless and unarmed people," said Vincenzo Asaro, owner of one of the boats.

The Italian foreign office declined to comment.

On Wednesday, Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said "the stabilisation of Libya is a strategic priority for Italy and Europe," but made no direct reference to the fishing boat case.

Italy is keen to end the conflict in Libya, which has seen people smugglers establish bases in the war-torn country.

Italy's new government has been eager to end people trafficking from Africa to Europe, which has seen thousands of migrants cross the Mediterranean and land on Italian shores.

Earlier this month, Italy said it was attempting to bring together opposing forces in Libya's long-running war with an international conference to be held in Sicily next month.

Italy is a strong supporter of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, created in 2015 in hopes of easing the chaos that followed the 2011 NATO-backed revolution which ousted Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The GNA is opposed by a rival adminstration in the country's east led by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

"We want to find a common solution, even though there will be different opinions around the table," Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi told parliament.

He added the aim of the conference, to be held in Palermo on 12 and 13 November, was to restore peace to the North African nation and prepare for December elections.

Italy and France have both been keen to progress peace efforts in the country which has seen rival militias compete for authority and oil wealth amid a worsening migrant crisis, leading to fertile ground for militant groups.

A Paris conference in May led to an agreement to hold a nationwide poll on 10 December.

However, Italy and other Western and UN diplomats say the date for elections is "unrealistic", especially after a month of intense violence near the capital Tripoli.

Milanesi said he did not expect the Palermo meeting would focus on specific dates for an election. "No deadlines will be imposed or tasks set for the Libyans," he said.

The conference is predicted to host high-level delegations from Turkey, Gulf countries and the European Union.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab

The New ArabComments

Most Popular

Most Popular

    Read More