U.S. and Italy Agree to Security in the Mediterranean and a Conference on Libya in the Fall
Washington: President Donald Trump and the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte have agreed Monday for a "bilateral control room" on the Mediterranean Sea. During a joint press conference at the White House following their meeting, the two leaders also announced a Conference on Libya scheduled for the next fall in Italy "to discuss all of the issues related to the Libyan people, involving all of the stakeholders, actors, protagonists in the whole of the Mediterranean,” as Conte said.
President Trump and Prime Minister Conte, who leads a government supported by the coalition of the 5-Star Movement and the right-wing, League party, met for the first time at the White House since Conte came to power in June. During their talks, Trump congratulated Conte for his election. Conte, in his remarks, underlined that both he and Trump are leading "governments chosen by citizens to change the status quo."
The two leaders, who have said they considered themselves as two "political outsiders" aligned on both of the main issues they planned to face. On migration, they expressed solidarity and support for each other. Trump opened to a new strategic dialogue between the two countries on security issues, and terrorism. Conte stated that, after their meeting, Italy and the United States "can count on a so-called twinnings" on the Mediterranean Sea and that since Monday's meeting "Italy is considered to cover a prior role on Libya" by the United States President. Moreover, on the imposition of new duties both Conte and Trump underlined the importance of the last week's agreement between the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the US president, which avoided escalating a trade dispute with the European Union. "I suggest all of you to invest in Italy, it is a great country with great people," Trump pointed out during the press conference. On the other hand, the US President also noted the U.S. trade deficit with Italy, and said that "we'll straighten that out pretty quickly." On the imposition of new duties, Prime Minister Conte pointed out the importance "to find a European solution. I understand Trump's concerns on WTO, as well as, I need to protect the Italian countries companies who export to the US," added Conte.
If on the trade dispute between the United States and the European Union, considered as an enemy by President Trump no later than two weeks ago, the prospects for the next future looks to be more optimistic, it is still not clear what the "bilateral control room" on the Mediterranean Sea and immigration flow from Libya will consist of. After the joint press conference at the White House, on Monday, Prime Minister Conte attended another press conference with the Italian press at the Embassy of Italy, in Washington. Responding to a question of an Italian reporter, Conte admitted that "the details of the control room in the Mediterranean Sea need to be decided yet." He added the Italian Foreign Minister Moavero Milanesi, his counterpart, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and their staffs "will work on them during the next months."
Prime Minister Conte, hoping that "the Conference on Libya will take the country to new elections as sooner as possible", also said that the bilateral control room with the United States doesn't exclude Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, "to have a role on it."
On Libya and the Mediterranean Sea, however, Trump's position will be decisive. Last year, in April, during a press conference following the bilateral meeting with the former Prime Minister of Italy, Paolo Gentiloni, the US President explained that he didn't see an expanded US military role on the Mediterranean region. "I do not see a role in Libya. I think the United States has right now enough roles," Trump said besides Mr. Gentiloni. "I do see a role in getting rid of ISIS," he added that time. Will the US President change his mind to support the new Prime Minister Conte?