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ANALYSIS: Italy Intensifies Contact with Tripoli Officials Amid a Power Struggle over Libya.

Local officials waking toward a C130J aircraft belongs to the Italian Air Force as it landed in Misurata airport to pick up 11 wounded fighters to Italy for medical treatment. The men suffered injuries fighting ISIS in Sirte, Libya, Sunday 26 June 2016.

By The Tripoli Post Staff Writer

Tripoli'Italy has always been interested in what is going on in Libya and has tried to preserve a special place for itself when western powers debate their rival interests in this gas and oil-rich North African country.

During the past few weeks Rome has intensified direct contacts with Tripoli officials, while other military, political and possible economic activities pass unnoticed and not so closely coordinated with legitimate authorities of the country.

Still the Italian government closely monitors the developments in Libya and, according to Italian officials, it is seeing some progress over there.

On Thursday 30 June, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told reporters that some progress was being made on the security front in the Middle East, particularly in Libya, thanks in part to Italian efforts.

"We have slow progress, but we have it in Libya, also to Italy's merit," he said as quoted by ANSA. "We have solved the problems. But we have had very gradual progress," he added.

On the following Sunday, the Italian Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs Mr. Vincenzo Amendola made a one-day official visit to Tripoli during which he met a number of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) including Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, the acting Foreign Minister Mohamed Siala and the Acting Minister of Local Government Baddad Gonsu.

Mr. Amendola tweeted Sunday that his discussions with Libyan officials focused on the fight against terrorism, human trafficking and bi-lateral relations. He told Mr. Al-Sarraj Italy stood by the side of Libya on the matter of peace and stability in the country.

Amendola, who also held talks with the Acting Minister of Transportation Milad Matouq and the self-appointed President of State Council Abdulrahman Swehli, was accompanied by Italy's special envoy to Libya and the Italian Deputy Ambassador to Libya Ms. Andrina Marcela.

He met Martin Kobler, UN Special Representative and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) saying he discussed with him Daesh and the security situation in Libya. Kobler tweeted that he crossed paths with Amendola in Tripoli and described the visit as 'helpful visit!' and 'great support'.

Moreover, Italy's Deputy Ambassador to Libya Ms. Andrina Marcela held talks last week with the Chairman of the National Oil Corporation Mustafa Sanalla during which they discussed bi-lateral cooperation between Libya and Italy in the oil and gas sector and the ways and means to strengthen it.

On 4 June, the CEO of Italian oil giant Eni, Claudio Descalzi, traveled to Tripoli for the first time since July 2014 and met with Fayez Serraj. Eni said in a statement that the visit underlined its commitment to continuing operations in Libya and to support the National Oil Corporation's efforts to increase production.

There seems to be a sense of urgency when it comes to Italy's mingling in Libyan internal affairs. Its strategic interests and the historical links with Libya may partially explain such urgency. This is not to downplay other powers' continuous impudent intervention but Rome could be sensing the pressure from these powers as to marginalize its role in Libya.

On Sunday 26 June, a huge C130J aircraft belongs to the Italian Air Force landed in Misurata airport in a mission to transfer 11 wounded fighters back to Italy for medical treatment. The wounded fighters belong to the Al-Bonyan Al-Marsous Operation, a coalition of militias affiliated with Misurata city, got hurt during fighting Daesh terrorists in Sirte.

On board of the military aircraft the Italian ambassador and a number of the embassy's officials. He was welcomed at the airport by General Bashir al-Qathi, head of the special military operations room and officials from Misurata municipality.

The Italian ambassador told reporters upon arrival that he was instructed by Foreign Minister Gentiloni to supervise the C130J mission and that it was only one of other arrangements that have been undertaken by the Italian government in support of the Libyans' war against terrorism.

The ambassador also said an Italian ship would dock at Misurata port by the end of June carrying medical equipment and medicine for Misurata central hospital.

A statement, published on the Italian Foreign Ministry's web site on Monday 4 July quoted Mr. Amendola as saying 'a stable Libya is essential for the security of the Mediterranean and to combat human trafficking. This is why our Country is committed, both at multilateral and bilateral level, to reinforce Libya's Institutions and security forces, tackle humanitarian emergencies over the whole territory and support the Country's economic and social stability in this delicate transition phase'.

Amendola delegation included representatives from the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) and ENAV S. p. A., a government-owned company responsible for the provision of air traffic services and other air navigation services.

The statement said the Libyan Civil Aviation Authority and ENAV' signed a strategic agreement to reactivate and redevelop air navigation'.

Yet Libya's two major civilian airports have been out of service for years. The Benina International Airport in Benghazi was put out of service by terrorists back in 2013 while the Tripoli International Airport was destroyed in July 2014 by the same militias that are now being supported by Italy and the UNSMIL.

It is within this framework and because of these contradictions that are attributed to the international community's misguided policy in Libya which could shed some light on why the GNA has not obtained a vote of confidence from the democratically elected House of Representatives and internationally recognized legislative authority.

'The Undersecretary's visit paves the way for reinforcing bilateral consultations with Libya in all sectors of activity, from the economic sector to the areas of infrastructure and sanitation, transport and local authorities,' the Italian foreign ministry's statement concluded.

Gentiloni did not specify, however, any aspects of the aforementioned progress, especially as the country remains politically divided and the general public are still living in unprecedented and increasingly disastrous economic and security situation.

It seems that there is a silent cut-throat competition going on over economic interests in Libya between western powers. Once these rival powers come to agreement among each other on how to divide the pie or, in that matter they eliminate one another on the chess board, only then Libya's instability would come to an end.

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Publication:The Tripoli Post (Tripoli, Libya)
Geographic Code:6LIBY
Date:Jul 5, 2016
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