Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Friday that restoring stability to the war-struck nation of Libya was key to stopping Italy’s ongoing migrant crisis.
Speaking at a joint press conference with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, Renzi said the only way to stop migrants from attempting the illegal and highly dangerous crossing was to create a lasting peace in Italy, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
"It's a sea, not a cemetery," Renzi said Friday. "The problem in this moment is the situation on the ground in Libya."
His remarks came after an unprecedented week in which over 11,000 migrants were rescued from drowning by Italian authorities. As Libya slides further into chaos and violence, the number of migrants fleeing to Europe has jumped dramatically, despite a growing number of deaths during the crossing.
“Please allow me to be very clear. Peace in Libya -- either the tribes do this or no one is going to do this," Renzi reportedly said.
"The only way to reach peace is the tribes finally accept that they're going to go toward stabilization and peace."
Italian authorities reported earlier this week that Muslim migrants had thrown 12 Christians overboard while crossing from Libya on Thursday. The same day an immigration activist group said another 41 people were feared dead after a boat sank. The incident came just two days after as many as 400 people died after a ferry sank near the Libyan coast.
Obama said the U.S. would cooperate with Italy in containing the growth of the Islamic State and in stabilizing the country. "Given Italy's leadership role across the Mediterranean, the prime minister and I agreed to work together even more intensively to encourage cooperation on threats coming from Libya, including the growing ISIL [Islamic State] presence there, as well as additional coordination with other partners in how we can stabilize what has become a very deadly and difficult situation," Obama said, according to the Associated Press.
Obama said that military action alone would not be able to bring stability to Libya. “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," he said, according to the AFP.
The U.S. president called on regional Gulf countries to play a larger role in the Libyan peace process. “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," he reportedly said.
"In some cases, we've seen them fan the flames of military conflict rather than try to reduce them."
Libya has remained divided since 2011, when former ruler Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed. In his absence, rival governments and local bodies have sprung up, battling for control of Libya’s cities and natural resources.