ROME — NATO is ready to help a future national unity government in Libya but remains opposed to any military intervention in the war-torn country, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview published Sunday.
“If a national unity government is formed, we are ready to help it and provide assistance,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with Italy’s Repubblica and several other European newspapers ahead of an international conference on Libya in Rome next Sunday.
However, “we are not discussing a major new military operation in Libya, and I will not be recommending it,” he said.
His remarks were published just hours before Libya’s warring factions, who are holding talks in Tunisia, said they had reached an agreement on ending the political deadlock that has plagued the country since Moammar Gadhafi’s overthrow.
Former colonial power Italy will host the Dec.13 conference which is aimed at preventing Libya’s total collapse and halting the advance of the extremist Islamic State group.
Experts have warned that IS has been shifting to Libya as the world focuses on its traditional power bases in Iraq and Syria, taking advantage of the chaos as rival militias and governments battle for power.
But UN-brokered talks on the formation of a national unity government in Libya collapsed in October and have yet to resume.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi pointed to the crisis in Libya as he sought to defend Rome’s decision not to join international military action against IS jihadists.
The north African country was thrown into chaos after a 2011 revolt backed by Western military intervention overthrew Kadhafi.
“If being a protagonist means adding to the bombardments of others, then I say no thanks! Italy already used this strategy in Libya in 2011,” Renzi told the Corriere della Serra newspaper.
“Four years of civil war in Libya shows this was not a wise choice. Today there needs to be another strategy.”
Italy is on the frontline of a migrant crisis fueled by the conflict in Libya, which has become an un-policed launchpad for people traffickers shipping desperate people across the Mediterranean, frequently with deadly consequences.