Gen­tiloni urges U.S. to play role in sta­bliz­ing Libya

Trump says no, prods Italy to keep NATO prom­ise

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY S.A. MILLER AND DAVE BOYER

Pres­i­dent Trump didn’t sugar-coat it Thurs­day when con­tra­dict­ing Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Paolo Gen­tiloni’s ar­gu­ment that the U.S. should play a “very crit­i­cal role” in sta­bi­liz­ing Libya af­ter the de­feat of the Is­lamic State there.

“I don’t see a role in Libya,” Mr. Trump flatly re­sponded at joint press con­fer­ence at the White House, fol­low­ing the two leader’s first face-to-face meet­ing.

Mr. Trump also promised to pres­sure Mr. Gen­tiloni about ful­fill­ing Italy’s com­mit­ment to pay 2 per­cent of its gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP) to NATO. Italy pays about 1 per­cent.

That’s a pet peeve for Mr. Trump. He re­peat­edly has said that NATO mem­bers don’t pay their fair share and the U.S. pays too much for mil­i­tary de­fense in Europe.

Mr. Trump re­acted with glee when a re­porter asked Mr. Gen­tiloni about the NATO pay­ments.

“I love the ques­tion you asked the prime min­is­ter. I look for­ward to his an­swer,” Mr. Trump said to laugh­ter from the au­di­ence. “Be­cause I’m go­ing to be ask­ing him that same ques­tion very soon.”

De­spite the dis­agree­ments, both lead­ers vouched for the solid friend­ship and close al­liance be­tween Amer­ica and Italy, which Mr. Trump called “bonds of his­tory and cul­ture.” They vowed to work to­gether to fight ter­ror­ism and strengthen eco­nomic ties.

Se­cu­rity is­sues dom­i­nated the meet­ing be­tween the two lead­ers. At the press con­fer­ence, they touched upon a hotspots around the globe, in­clud­ing Iran and North Korea.

Mr. Trump warned that Iran was not liv­ing up to the “spirit” of the nu­clear deal it signed with the U.S. and other world pow­ers dur­ing the Obama administration.

“Iran has not lived up to the spirit of the agree­ment, and they have to do that,” he said. “They are do­ing a tremen­dous dis­ser­vice to an agree­ment that was signed.”

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son ac­cused Iran this week of desta­bi­liz­ing the world, and said the administration is re­view­ing the Obama administration’s de­ci­sion to lift eco­nomic sanc­tions against Tehran. How­ever, the Trump administration also cer­ti­fied that Iran is com­ply­ing with the deal to abate its nu­clear pro­gram.

Mr. Trump called it “as bad as I’ve ever seen ne­go­ti­ated.”

In re­sponse to a re­porter’s ques­tion about whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is men­tally sta­ble, the pres­i­dent said he hopes “the an­swer is a pos­i­tive one.”

The pres­i­dent boasted that the U.S. is rapidly beef­ing up its mil­i­tary, but he looked to China to step up to the North Korea prob­lem.

Mr. Trump said he is con­fi­dent he has per­suaded China, fol­low­ing his meet­ing this month with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, to try to rein in North Korea, which has nu­clear weapons and is work­ing on mis­siles that could reach the U.S.

“I have ab­so­lute con­fi­dence that he will be try­ing very, very hard,” said the pres­i­dent. “I ac­tu­ally told him, I said, ‘You’ll make a much bet­ter deal on trade if you get rid of this men­ace or do some­thing about the men­ace of North Korea.’ Be­cause that’s what it is, it’s a men­ace right now.”

The dis­con­nect on Libya and NATO fund­ing high­lighted the un­cer­tain­ties that could cloud Mr. Trump’s first trip abroad next month. He’ll at­tend a NATO meet­ing in Brus­sels and the Group of Seven in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tions sum­mit that Mr. Gen­tiloni will host in Taormina, Si­cily.

Euro­pean lead­ers have com­plained about mixed mes­sages sent by Mr. Trump, such as la­bel­ing NATO “ob­so­lete” only to later de­clare that it “isn’t ob­so­lete any­more.”

On the ques­tion of help­ing forge a po­lit­i­cal solution in Libya, Mr. Trump said the has “too many roles right now.”

The an­swer revived the iso­la­tion­ist rhetoric from the Trump campaign that re­cently ap­peared to evap­o­rate amid U.S. airstrikes on Syria and Navy war­ships steam­ing to­ward the Korean Penin­sula.

“We are ef­fec­tively rid­ding the world of ISIS,” said Mr. Trump. “I see that as a pri­mary role, and that’s what we’re go­ing to do, whether it’s in Iraq or in Libya or any­where else. And that role will come to an end at a cer­tain point. And we’ll be able to go back home and re­build our coun­try, which is what I want to do.”

Libya is a top con­cern for Italy, which is the des­ti­na­tion for thou­sands of Libyan refugees flee­ing across the Mediter­ranean Sea. For Rome, re­pair­ing the failed state in Libya must go hand in hand with the de­feat of the ter­ror­ists.

“A di­vided coun­try and in conflict would make ci­vil­ity worse. The U.S. role in this is very crit­i­cal,” said Mr. Gen­tiloni.

On NATO pay­ments, he said Italy is “proud” of its con­tri­bu­tion of both money and troops to mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions.

“We know that Italy has cer­tain lim­i­ta­tions when it comes to its bud­get. But de­spite these lim­i­ta­tions, our com­mit­ment for com­mon de­fense is very clear,” he said, not­ing Italy’s in­volve­ment in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We talked about Iraq and Afghanistan, but we could also talk about the Baltic Sea or the Balkans,” said Mr. Gen­tiloni. “In all of these ar­eas, you will see the pres­ence of Ital­ian forces within the al­liance. And we are proud of that.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump held a joint press con­fer­ence with Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Paolo Gen­tiloni on Thurs­day. Mr. Gen­tiloni urged Mr. Trump to play a big­ger role in Libya af­ter the de­feat of the Is­lamic State. Mr. Trump dis­agreed say­ing, “I don’t see a role in Libya.” Later he said, “I see that as a pri­mary role, and that’s what we’re go­ing to do, whether it’s in Iraq or in Libya or any­where else.”

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