Former Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte justified his meeting with Khalifa Haftar last year in Benghazi by saying it was the only way to free the 18 Italian fishermen after protracted negotiations.

Conte explained to the Italian newspaper, La Stampa, that he met Khalifa Haftar on December 17 and signed, in his presence, the decree to release the fishermen, stressing that he had rejected other "unacceptable requests" without disclosing what they were.

Haftar's militias had arrested the fishermen onboard two vessels near the Libyan maritime border in early September 2020 on charges of fishing in Libyan territorial waters. The fishermen included eight Italians, six Tunisians, two Indonesians, and two Senegalese.

On the other hand, Conte expressed hope that the trip of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to Libya would yield beneficial results, underscoring that the situation in Libya remains a strategic file for Italian and European interests, as it is closely related to the global geopolitical balance, according to his statement.