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What can we expect from Italy’s conference on Libya?

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Next week, Italy is hosting an international conference on Libya in Palermo, Sicily. Italy has every reason to be concerned about what is happening in Libya, given that the Libyan capital, Tripoli, is only five hundred kilometres south of Sicily and little over one hour flying time from Rome. The Libyan shambles effects Italy more than most.

Furthermore, Italy has a big economic interest in Libya, from where it imports 25 per cent of its gas needs and about 10 per cent of its crude oil, adding weight to Rome’s concern for its former colony. On top of all of that, yet another dimension revolves around illegal migration.

Italy has been the landing point for thousands of illegal migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, seeking protection and a better life in Europe. Libya has long been their favoured route to Italian shores. The current Italian government — a coalition of anti-establishment and populist parties — has made illegal migration a top priority. Rome is also involved in a competition with France over influence and leadership in Libya, which has been in chaos since the NATO-backed uprising toppled its long-time leader, the late Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011

The Italy-France rivalry over Libya is no secret; Paris has hosted two conferences about the North African country — one in 2017 and the other earlier this year — to which Italy was not even invited. It was the French President’s way of saying that Paris can do without the Italians. As noted in a MEMO article last August, Italy and France are engaged in competitive diplomacy over who should........

© Middle East Monitor