The Malta Independent 17 August 2022, Wednesday

Wall of silence over Gafà’s presence at diplomatic talks in Tripoli

Sunday, 23 June 2019, 09:30 Last update: about 4 years ago

No one in government appears willing to explain what, exactly, Neville Gafà was doing in Tripoli this week as a member of a Maltese delegation holding official, diplomatic talks with Libya’s Deputy Prime Minister and other figures of authority.

The Malta Independent had first reported on Thursday that Neville Gafà had been on hand for at least one diplomatic meeting in Tripoli this week between Malta’s Ambassador to Libya, Charles Saliba, and Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Metig, at which Malta said it was willing to re-open its embassy in Tripoli.

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During the meeting, according to a statement by the Libyan Prime Minister’s Department of Information: “The Deputy Prime Minister stressed the depth of the historic relations between Libya and Malta, expressing hope for the return of economic and commercial activities between the two countries.

“The ambassador expressed his country’s willingness to have its embassy in Tripoli resume working, as well as continue joint working in different fields and activating joint committees.”

There has been no reciprocal statement of any sort whatsoever from the Maltese Department of Information.  As far as the Maltese government is concerned, the meeting took place ‘below the radar’.

According to the Libyan statement, at the meeting held at the Libyan Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday, with Gafà in attendance, Ambassador Saliba emphasised that, apart from reopening the embassy, Malta wished to continue joint work in various fields, including activating the work of joint committees.

But questions sent directly to Foreign Minister Carmelo Abela and two of his aides have remained unanswered since Wednesday, despite a number of follow-ups and reminders having been sent, asking what Gafà’s exact role in the Tripoli discussions was, whether he was now employed by – or seconded to – the Foreign Affairs Ministry and what his role in the diplomatic discussions had been.

The questions were met with a wall of silence.

So too, were questions sent to Gafà asking him to explain his presence and participation in bilateral meetings, what his role was, where – exactly – he was employed and how many and what other meetings and/or talks of this nature he had been involved in over the last year and what the purpose of his participation was.

Gafà was embroiled in the Libyan medical visas scandal, and he also caused a stir last December when he held diplomatic talks in Tripoli as ‘a special envoy of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’. This had also been seen in pictures uploaded on various Libyan social media and newspaper websites.  When contacted by this newsroom at the time and asked why Gafà had been in Libya and whether he held a diplomatic passport, Minister Abela insisted that Gafà is not employed by his Ministry, and that he does not hold a diplomatic passport.

“Charles Saliba is [was] still in the process of being appointed Ambassador, and the next step is the issuing of the agrément by the Libyan authorities,” Abela said, adding that “the Government had asked Gafà for an explanation. 

“Gafà told the Minister that he was in Libya on a personal trip, in his personal time, had taken time off work and had paid for the trip himself. He was not representing the government at any point.” 

When asked in what capacity was Gafà the government’s special envoy, Abela replied: “At no point did Gafà make any claim he was representing the government or the Prime Minister. There are no official documents or communications between the Maltese Government and the Libyan authorities about this visit.”

This newsroom also contacted Gafà himself and questioned him about the trip. In his statement, he said: “My visit in Libya was personal and I was never appointed a special envoy to the Maltese government.” Asked if there was any note verbal exchanged between the two countries for this visit to take place, Gafà replied in the negative and said he had been visiting Libya in a personal capacity. “The meetings I had during this stay were all held unofficially.” Asked who had accompanied him during this ‘personal trip’, he said that Charles Saliba was never with him because he had not visited Libya in an official capacity.

The fact that he was accompanying Saliba on this week’s visit may very well imply that this week’s trip had been undertaken in an official capacity after all.

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