Economic interests dominate Debeibah’s talks in Rome

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Posted – 03rd June 2021

Dbeibah said the two countries were seeking “viable economic and technological programmes” and Libya would do “everything possible for these programmes to be implemented.”

ROME – Statements by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi reflected Rome’s determination to promote its commercial interests in Libya, especially in the energy sector.

On his first visit to a Western nation, Libya’s Interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah met his counterpart Mario Draghi for talks touching on energy investments, migration and security, marking his first visit to Europe since his March swearing-in.

Underscoring the strategic importance of Libya to Italy, it was the second face-to-face meeting for the two leaders since April, when Draghi made his own first trip abroad to Libya, Italy’s former colony, after being sworn in as premier.

Without providing specifics, Draghi said collaborations in the energy sector would be expanded.

“The possibilities are vast and our companies are ready to undertake projects,” he said after the meeting.

“At the base of all these projects is a need, the need to safeguard all of those who will put these projects in place.”

Libya, which Italy considers crucial to its economic and foreign policy interests, is seeking to put a decade of violence and chaos behind it under a UN-sponsored peace process.

National elections are scheduled for December.

Italy wants to protect its commercial interests in the oil-rich nation, where energy giant Eni is the leading foreign player, while at the same time restoring its former position as the dominant European actor.

Libya is also one of the main launching points for thousands of migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe, mainly Italy, each year.

— Common problem —

Migration issues are a political minefield in Italy, where so far this year nearly 14,000 migrants have arrived by sea, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Rome has provided patrol boats, equipment and training to the Libyan coast guard to intercept migrants leaving the country’s shores, a policy sharply criticised by rights groups for allowing migrants to be returned to squalid and dangerous detention camps.

“The problem of immigration is not solved only in the Mediterranean area but by going to the roots, to where immigration starts, and it is not only a Libyan, Maltese or Italian responsibility but a common one,” Dbeibah said.

Earlier, he participated in a business forum with Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, designed to identify business opportunities for Italian companies in Libya.

“We want our entrepreneurs to be able to build privileged interactions with the national unity government,” said Di Maio.

“We are at a crucial turning point in Libya’s political stabilisation process. The path to peace and lasting stability in the country has received new impetus,” he said.

Dbeibah said the two countries were seeking “viable economic and technological programmes” and Libya would do “everything possible for these programmes to be implemented.

ARAB WEEKLY

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