By Romina McGuinness
Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on Monday implied France was responsible for the fresh violence in Libya and for plunging the lawless country into a permanent state of turmoil in the first place.
Rome believes the Nato-led intervention to topple Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 is the root cause of the country’s current state of chaos and of the EU’s migration crisis.
Mr Salvini said: “There is obviously someone behind. This is not something that comes about by chance.
“My fear is that, someone, for their national economic interests, is jeopardising the stability of all of North Africa, and as a result, of all of Europe.”
Referring to the France-backed military intervention in 2011 and to French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent push for peaceful elections to be held before the end of 2018, he added: “I’m thinking of someone who went to war when he shouldn’t have done so, of someone who sets election dates without first informing his allies, the UN, or the people of Libya.”
He also promised to return to the war-torn country “soon,” adding that Italy had to play a “leading role in the stabilisation of the Mediterranean”.
Seven years after Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a Nato-backed war, the country remains largely lawless and divided.
Unlike France – whose then-leader Nicolas Sarkozy pushed hard for military action – Italy was initially opposed to the intervention.
It has since repeatedly stressed Mr Sarkozy’s leading role in the doomed war, which it has singled out as the root cause of Libya’s ongoing chaos and of Europe’s escalating migration crisis.
In another swipe at France, Mr Salvini told a reporter to “see with Paris” when asked whether Libya’s ports were safe enough to welcome migrants rejected by Italy.
Mr Salvini has time and again argued that migrants who land on Italy’s shores should be sent back to Libya – the main transit point for departure from North Africa –, but has faced criticism from his European neighbours, including Mr Macron, who say that Libya is not recognised as a port of safety.
Italy’s Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta also lashed out at France on Monday, saying in a Facebook post that Paris “has a responsibility” in the Libyan crisis.
She said: “It is undeniable that this country finds itself in this situation because someone, in 2011, put their own interests first.”
Both Mr Salvini and Mrs Trenta were referring to the fresh bout of fighting that has gripped Tripoli.
At least 47 people, including civilians, have been killed in heavy clashes between rival factions over the past week, with dozens more injured, according to Libya’s health ministry.
A UN-backed government is nominally in power in the capital, but militias occupy much of the rest of the country.
The violence erupted when militias from a city to the south of Tripoli attacked southern areas, leading to fighting with local militias that support the internationally recognised government, the Government of National Accord (GNA).
Romina McGuinness – Freelance Writer, Editor and Translator in international print and digital media.