WASHINGTON (AFP) - Restoring stability in Libya is the only way to solve the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Friday, as President Barack Obama warned re-establishing peace could not be achieved by military force.
Speaking at a joint White House press conference after authorities in Italy confirmed more than 11,000 migrants had been rescued in the past six days alone, Renzi said the problem would only be solved by peace in Libya.
The increasingly violent and chaotic situation in Libya has prompted a hike in the number of migrants trying to reach Europe, a tide that has not abated despite the tragic ending suffered by many attempting the crossing.
On Sunday, some 400 migrants dreaming of a better life died after their crowded boat capsized off the coast of Libya, with bedraggled survivors later being taken to Italy.
“It’s a sea, not a cemetery,” Renzi said Friday.
“The problem in this moment is the situation on the ground in Libya.”
While Italy was engaged with the United Nations and regional allies to deal with the migrant problem, ultimately it would only be solved if rival factions in Libya settled their differences, Renzi added.
“Please allow me to be very clear. Peace in Libya – either the tribes do this or no one is going to do this,” Renzi said.
“The only way to reach peace is the tribes finally accept that they’re going to go toward stabilization and peace.”
Obama said the United States was closely monitoring Libya, where Islamic State militants have also established a foothold.
But Obama said targeted drone strikes or military operations would not bring an end to the turmoil raging across Libya, which he described as “an area of great concern.”
“We will not be able to solve the problem just with a few drone strikes or a few military operations,” Obama said.
“You have a country that has been broken – a number of tribal factions, some sectarian elements to it, and you don’t have a central government that is functioning effectively.”
While the US would remain on guard against a possible terrorist threat emanating from Libya, Obama said “the answer ultimately is to have a government that can control its own borders and work with us.”
“That’s going to take some time,” Obama said, calling on regional powers in the Middle East and Gulf to do more to persuade factions within Libya to lay down their weapons and negotiate a return to peace and stability.
“We’re going to have to encourage some of the countries inside the Gulf who have influence over the various factions inside Libya to be more cooperative themselves,” Obama said.
“In some cases, we’ve seen them fan the flames of military conflict rather than try to reduce them.”
Libya has been divided since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with rival governments and parliaments and armed groups now battling to control its cities and oil wealth.
Peace talks aimed at persuading the country’s rival parliaments to form a unity government are taking place in Morocco, with the UN revealing Friday it was attempting to narrow differences between the two sides.