Italy and Libya sign co-operation agreements

Italian PM Giorgia Meloni met officials representing Tripoli and Benghazi-based governments

Libya's Tripoli-based Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh welcomes Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. AFP
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Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni signed three agreements with Libya during an official state visit on Tuesday, in which she met officials from the Tripoli and Benghazi-based governments in the conflict-torn country.

The agreements are part of the Mattei plan, a project in which Italy promised a €5.5 billion ($5.92 billion) investment package for projects in Africa at a summit in Rome in January.

Ms Meloni initially met Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, who leads the National Unity Government in Tripoli.

They discussed Libya’s continuing political crisis and agreed to hold a Libyan-Italian Economic Forum in Tripoli in October.

“I have held fruitful talks [with Ms Meloni] to enhance the prospect of co-operation between our countries and we look forward to continuing the work to advance bilateral relations,” Mr Dbeibeh said in a statement on his Facebook page.

The two officials also discussed the need to provide more support to UN efforts to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya, and ways to curb irregular migration in the region.

Ms Meloni was joined by a delegation that included the Minister of Universities and Research, Anna Maria Bernini, Minister of Health, Orazio Schillaci, and Minister of Sport and Youth, Andrea Abodi.

They met their equivalents from Tripoli and signed agreements that will help Libya in health, higher education and sport, focusing mainly on the development of the country’s infrastructure and providing training and technical assistance.

The agreements also included the promotion of new student exchange programmes, renewable energy co-operation and enabling Libyans’ access to treatment in Italian hospitals.

Ms Meloni’s visit to Libya is the second since taking office in October 2022 and comes less than three weeks since she made a similar visit to Tunis, during which several agreements were also signed.

She then travelled to Benghazi where she met Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, considered one of the main sponsors of the eastern-based government, the House of Representatives, led by Prime Minister Osama Hammad.

Ms Meloni's visit emphasised “Italy’s consolidated commitment to be present throughout Libya and to work with all Libyan actors”, a statement from her office said on Tuesday.

Since the overthrow of long-time Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s regime by rebels backed by western air strikes in 2011, Libya has been rocked by unrest.

The country remains divided because of a continuing rivalry between the two governments and allied armed factions.

Elections were expected to take place in 2021, but they fell through after disagreements about the electoral law and who should be allowed to stand.

Due to the continuing political stalemate, Libya has become home to well-organised smuggling and human trafficking networks that continue to take advantage of the dire circumstances migrants face in North Africa.

According to the UN’s International Organisation for Migration, Libya is home to about 704.000 migrants from more than 43 nationalities, with most fleeing their home countries because of war, armed conflict, political persecution or even degrading environmental conditions.

Human rights groups have accused Ms Meloni of taking advantage of the dire economic situation North African countries are facing to implement her government’s far-right agenda.

Updated: May 07, 2024, 8:51 PM