By the time Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte expressed optimism at the end of the Palermo conference on Libya, General Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi had already left Italy two hours ago, according to LeMonde.
Earlier, there were conflicting reports about likelihood of Haftar’s participation before he finally appeared along with the Italian prime minister.
His advisers said he had apologized for not attending the dinner hosted by Conte in honor of the participants.
The report quoted a spokesperson for the Libyan army as saying that Haftar was in Palermo not to participate in the summit but to meet leaders of neighboring countries.
Regarding the uncertainty till the last minute of his arrival in Palermo, as well as his willingness to stand out from the format set out by the Italians can be explained by two main reasons, according to observers of the Libyan scene.
In the first place, Haftar expressed his frustration with some diplomatic developments in the final stretch before the Palermo summit.
According to one of his advisers, he would not have appreciated a tweet by Matteo Salvini, Italian Deputy Prime Minister, during his visit to Qatar on October 31. In his tweet, Salvini said he had “discovered a respectful and tolerant country that has repelled extremism” and “will help stabilize Libya”.
However, Qatar is part of Turkey’s regional axis that supports Haftar’s opponents - from the ‘revolutionary’ camp or the movement of the Muslim Brotherhood - while the General is supported by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
On the other hand, the Turkish Defense Minister during trip to Tripoli on November 5, had met with Sarraj, followed by the latter's visit on November 9 to Ankara, where he met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. These developments would also have certainly offended Haftar, according to his adviser.
Haftar wanted to express his displeasure by defying his hosts at Palermo.