Italy, Libya pledge to work on new energy deals
Italy and Libya will collaborate on new energy projects, their prime ministers said Monday, on the first visit to the West by the North African nation's interim head.
Libya's Interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah met with counterpart Mario Draghi for talks touching on energy investments, migration and security, marking his first visit to Europe since being sworn in in March.
Underscoring the strategic importance of Libya to Italy, it was the second face-to-face meeting for the two leaders since April, when Draghi made his first trip abroad to Libya - Italy's former colony - after being sworn in as premier.
Without providing specifics, Draghi said collaborations in the energy sector would be expanded.
"The possibilities are vast and our companies are ready to undertake projects," he said after the meeting.
"At the base of all these projects is a need, the need to safeguard all of those who will put these projects in place."
Libya, which Italy considers crucial to its economic and foreign policy interests, is seeking to put a decade of post-revolution chaos behind it under a UN-sponsored peace process.
National elections are scheduled for December.
Italy wants to protect its commercial interests in the oil-rich nation, where energy giant Eni is the leading foreign player, while at the same time restoring its former position as dominant European actor.
Libya is also one of the main launching points for thousands of migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe - mainly Italy - each year.
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Migration issues are a political minefield in Italy, where so far this year nearly 14,000 migrants have arrived by sea, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Rome has provided ships, equipment and training to the Libyan coast guard to intercept migrants from leaving the country's shores, a policy sharply criticised by rights groups for allowing migrants to be returned to squalid and dangerous detention camps.
"The problem of immigration is not solved only in the Mediterranean area but by going to the roots, to where immigration starts, and it is not only a Libyan, Maltese or Italian responsibility but a common one," Dbeibah said.
Earlier, Dbeibah participated in a business forum with Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, designed to identify business opportunities for Italian companies in Libya.
"We want our entrepreneurs to be able to build privileged interactions with the national unity government," said Di Maio.
"We are at a crucial turning point in Libya's political stabilisation process. The path to peace and lasting stability in the country has received new impetus," he said.
Dbeibah said the two countries were seeking "viable economic and technological programs" and Libya would do "everything possible for these programs to be implemented."