The Italian Defence Minister, Lorenzo Guerini, went to the Libyan capital Tripoli, on August 5, where he met the Head of the Presidential Council and Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj. The focus of their conversation has been the Libyan crisis and the bilateral cooperation between Italy and Tripoli.
Minister Guerini was accompanied by the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Enzo Vecciarelli, the AISE Director, Gen. Giovanni Caravelli and the Joint Operations Headquarters (COI) commander, Gen. Luciano Portolano. Once in Tripoli, the Italian was welcomed by Italy Ambassador to Tripoli, Giuseppe Buccino Grimaldi, Libyan Deputy Minister of Defence, Salah Al-Namroush, and Miasit Mission commander, Gen. Maurizio Fronda. Guerini also had the opportunity to meet the GNA Vice-President, Ahmed Maitig, the minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Taha Siala, and deputy minister of Defence Sarah al-Namroush.
During the conversation, al-Sarraj reiterated that any ceasefire agreement should guarantee that the enemy, namely the Libyan National Army (LNA) and his chief Khalifa Haftar, would not place his forces in locations that would allow him to wage another war. Then, Guerini and al-Sarraj agreed that Libyans should return to the political process, as established by Security Council resolutions and Berlin Conference conclusions, aiming at reaching a lasting ceasefire.
One of the main points of discussion related to the bilateral cooperation concerned the resumption of the activities of the Italian firms in Libya, but the two interlocutors also committed in collaborating in security and military fields, mine clearance, as well as for the training of military cadets and personnel in Italy. “We are ready to give new momentum to our cooperation immediately”, Minister Guerini told Prime Minister al-Sarraj, and he added: “Our presence in Libya remains a priority on the way to peacebuilding and institutional reforms that we all hope for”.
Within this framework, the Italian minister pointed out the efforts made to develop civil-military cooperation with local authorities and said that Italy is doing its best to assist the Libyan people and the country’s stabilization process. Moreover, Guerini and al-Sarraj talked about the establishment of a joint committee that will operate as a military cooperation governance body at the strategic level. According to the Italian minister, it will strengthen the bond between the two countries.
In addition to that, Libya-Italy cooperation will also concern the medical field, as symbolized by a field hospital in Misrata, which will be transferred to a more functional area. And last but not least, the two countries are about to develop a new plan for cadets, officers and warrant officers for activities to be conducted both in Italy and Libya. It is supposed to be implemented in the new Academic Year.
After the meeting with al-Sarraj, minister Guerini met the Italian Contingent in Libya, and he thanked the soldiers on behalf of the Government and the whole country. He also talked with the military personnel engaged in Operation Safe Seas and the crew of Italian Navy Ship Pantelleria.
On July 16, the Lower House of the Italian Parliament approved the government’s resolution on extending Italy’s military missions abroad and another specifically regarding the Italian operation in Libya and its financing. The latter, already approved by the Upper House, the so-called “Senate”, passed with 401 votes in favor, 23 nays and one abstention.
The measure on missions, developed by the Italian Defense minister, provides for the renewal of the presence of the Italian army abroad and, in the case of Libya, concerns the extension for 2020 of the participation of the contingent of the Guardia di Finanza and the Carabinieri Corps in the Bilateral Mission of Assistance and Support to the Coast Guard of the Libyan Navy. The subject has often been a source of controversy especially within the majority, since many opposed to direct support for the Libyan Coast Guard, repeatedly accused of being involved in human rights violations and illicit trafficking in migrants.
Libya is a country still torn by conflict, and it is facing deep instability since February 15, 2011, the starting point of an ongoing and escalating civil war. There are two main factions confronting each other in order to take the control of the country. On the one hand, the Tripoli government, also known as Government of National Accord (GNA), established with the Skhirat political agreement, signed on December 17, 2015. It is headed by the Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and it is recognized by the international community and the United Nations as Libya’s legitimate government. On the other hand, there is the Tobruk government, linked to the army general Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA). He is backed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Russia, and France, while Italy, Qatar, and Turkey support the Tripoli government.
This article was first published on July 8, 2020