Libyans speak of positive and healthy vibes coming from across the pond.
“As our Italian friends would say, the relationship between Libya and Italy is now on the ‘bella strada,” the late Libyan foreign minister, Ibrahim al-Beshari, once jokingly reassured Muammar Gaddafi during a televised foreign policy hearing in the early 1990s.
Recent political gestures coming from across the pond may indicate that our Italian friends have relocated that old bella strada towards the restoration of a mutually beneficial relationship with the whole of Libya.
The first of such positive vibes are the announcement on Wednesday from the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, about his plan to visit Tripoli on 6 April to show much-needed support for Libya’s nascent unity government. Mr Draghi’s visit would be his first abroad since taking office last month. The second is today’s welcome announcement from the Foreign Minister, Luigi Di Maio, about Italy’s plan to reopen its consulate in Benghazi and setting up an honorary consulate in Libya’s Southern region.
Mr Di Maio made the remarks during an interview with Tg2 Post where he has described the recent joint ministerial visit to Tripoli alongside his French and German counterparts as a “message about European unity” and confirmed that Turkey’s Syrian mercenaries would be first to evacuate Libya.
Over the last few years, the occupants of Palazzo Chigi were misguided into favouring certain political actors in Libya in disregard to the wider Libyan public, the overall regional dynamics, and most importantly the mutual strategic interests. The resulting vacuum was filled by opportunist, destabilizing regional actors, notably, the pro-Islamist regime in Ankara.
Driven by narrow-sighted partisan policies and a fictional rivalry with France, Rome ended up scoring a fatal own goal by handing western Libya unwittingly to the regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The latter did not waste much time before starting to deploy the invaluable cards of Libyan oil and in seeking to achieve control over the migration route in a bid to twist the EU’s hand and bring Brussels to its knees.
By now, Italian decision makers should have learnt to question the real motives of those non-EU actors whispering in their ears to “stand up to France in Libya”. Only when Rome and Paris agree to join forces in Libya can lasting reconciliation and democratic transition be genuinely achieved. A stable and democratic Libya would offer Rome with the strong partner it needs to tackle the problems of illegal migration and to achieve mutual prosperity in the sectors of energy and investments.