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Libya, the bone of contention between France and Italy

LIBYA (OBSERVATORY) –¬†From Libya to Syria, via the issue of immigration, the objectives of Paris and Rome remain very different. Aspiring to a leading role in Europe, Macron pursues its own policy towards Rome and a divided EU. Sputnik spoke about the situation with Michela Mercuri, a professor at the University of Macerata. This was reported by Sputnik news agency.

Visiting the United States, Emmanuel Macron wanted to show the great role he plays in Europe, exploiting the void left by a weakened European Union. During his negotiations at the White House, he discussed the Middle East, the Iran deal and trade with Europe. Sputnik asked to comment on the situation to Michela Mercuri, author of the book “Libya unknown” (“Incognita Libia”), professor of contemporary history of Mediterranean countries at the University of Macerata.

Analyzing the strategic objectives of Italy and France, which are far from always coinciding, Michela Mercuri notably studied the interests of the two countries in Libya.

According to her, they are extremely confrontational because of oil. Not only in 2011, when France was seeking access to Libyan crude, but today too.

“Thus, Italy supports the head of the government of national unity (GNA) Fayez al-Sarraj, while France supports Marshal Khalifa Haftar. In fact, by selling his weapons to the latter, Paris wants to settle in Cyrenaica to drill and explore oil resources, “she said.

According to her, when Khalifa Haftar fell ill, he was rushed to Paris, who seems to be watching for the moment to announce that the general is no longer able to govern the region.

“It seems that France is already looking for a successor to Khalifa Haftar to secure his positions in Cyrenaica. Paris continues to defend its national interests in Libya, to the detriment of the unity of this African country and, of course, to the detriment of a single policy with Italy, “said Michela Mercuri.

She believes that Italy should focus more on the Libyan question. Thus, Italy has in Libya an embassy and 300 men of the Hyppocrate humanitarian operation. The Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti, had tried to anchor in Libya at least diplomatically, but has agreements with tribes that were quickly questioned, she recalled.

Referring to the recent attack on Syria , where France played a leading role, Michela Mercuri found that on this issue, the positions of Paris and Rome do not coincide either.

“Indeed, Italy, in the person of the head of government, Paolo Gentiloni, has expressed his support for NATO, but, on the other hand, Matteo Salvini and several other personalities who aspire to the post of Prime Minister have clearly declared their opposition to this intervention,” she noted.

It noted that by participating in the operation in Syria, France has not hesitated to practice a policy contrasting with that of Russia, thus exacerbating tensions.

Highlighting the explosive nature of the situation in the region, she said it was important to find a solution quickly.

“It is vital to move the parties involved in the conflict in Syria to the negotiating table to discuss the future of the country,” she said.

Another stumbling block in bilateral relations is the problem of migration flows through Libya. France has repeatedly promised – both at the Taormina Summit last year and during the recent meeting in Rome with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni – to help Italy strengthen the Franco-Italian partnership on the issue of migrants continued Michela Mercuri.

“But only in words, because Paris has taken no concrete action and even continues to reject migrants,” she said, adding that French-Italian cooperation on this issue, as well as other political issues , had found himself in a dead end.

She also highlighted the importance of the Iranian file , stressing that France continued to protect its national interests in the country, because it is the third supplier of Tehran, behind Germany and Italy.

Finally, she described the mission in Niger as a “slap given by France to Italy”. The latter refused the deployment of an Italian military contingent that was to be dispatched to the country to fight against terrorism and illegal migration.

So many problems that allow Michela Mercuri to conclude that the relations between France and Italy are at an impasse, above all because Italy still has no government and remains weak.