French Envoy: French-Italian Dispute over Libya “Won’t Bring Any Positive Results”

the French President's Special Envoy for the Middle East and the Mediterranean, Gilles Kepel
the French President's Special Envoy for the Middle East and the Mediterranean, Gilles Kepel

On Saturday, the French President’s Special Envoy for the Middle East and the Mediterranean, Gilles Kepel stated that “a dispute between France and Italy over Libya will not bring any positive results for the two parties, but rather other countries, such as Russia, will benefit from it.”

This came in a speech at the conclusion of the International Conference entitled “France and Italy one year after the Quirinal Treaty…Sovereignty and Geopolitical Challenges” which was held at the French Embassy in Rome.

Kepel indicated that “the most important challenge for France and Italy is to strengthen the relationship of integration and coordination between the two countries in the Mediterranean. As well as the need to change the geopolitical balance in North Africa, especially Libya.”

The French diplomat concluded that “Italy managed to establish a relationship in the energy sector with Algeria, which in turn is reconsidering its relationship with Russia.”

On Thursday, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatovićthe called on the Italian government to suspend cooperation with the Libyan government on migrant interceptions at sea.

The provisions of the decree, according to Mijatovic, “could hinder the search and rescue operations of NGOs and, therefore, be in conflict with Italy’s obligations under human rights and international law.”

The Commissioner also pointed out that NGO ships “have been assigned distant safe places to disembark people rescued at sea, such as the ports of central and northern Italy.”

“The decree and the practice of assigning distant ports for the disembarkation of people rescued at sea risks depriving people in need of life-saving assistance from NGOs on the deadliest migratory route in the Mediterranean,” she wrote.

Notably, the Italian PM visited Tripoli last week to hold talks on illegal immigration and energy cooperation.

During the visit, an agreement was signed between the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) and the Italian gas giant, Eni, with investments of €8 billion euros over 3 years.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Najla Al-Mangoush signed a memorandum of understanding with her Italian counterpart, Antonio Tajani. This is to enhance border security and combat illegal immigration.

In January, an Italian Coast Guard official stated that 53,000 migrants arrived in Italy by sea, from Libya in 2022. This is an increase of 70% compared to 2021, according to the AKI news agency.

This was stated by Admiral Giuseppe Aulicino, Head of the Plans and Operations Department of the General Command of the Italian Coast Guard. He told a hearing of the Constitutional Affairs and Transport Committees that NGO ships operating on the Cyrenaica-Lampedusa line had rescued more than 11,000 people, 34% of whom departed from western Libya.

He noted that a total of 105,000 migrants arrived by sea in 2022, an increase of 56% over the previous year. 1,401 of them departed from Algeria, and 32,000 from Tunisia, an increase of 60% compared to 2021.