Libya Tribune

Mezran interviewed by Formiche regarding Italy’s stance in Libya

By Francesco Bechis

The expert from Libya and the Middle East Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council: the exclusion of Italy from the NATO briefing on Libya certifies that Rome no longer has a voice, in its place Ankara has taken over. 

Count-Trump? We must ask for a US commitment to Sarraj. It won’t be easy, Trump is torn.

Germany, France, United Kingdom, Turkey gathered at the NATO summit to talk about Libya, without Italy. It is not a big business card for the premier Giuseppe Conte , who on the sidelines of the summit, in the bilateral with the American president Donald Trump , is planning to discuss the future of Tripoli and the bombing of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. 

The exclusion from the NATO meeting, which ended with a relaunch of the Berlin format of which Italy is a part, is a serious setback for Rome, explains to Formiche.net Karim Mezran , senior fellow of the Washington DC Atlantic Council .

Mezran, for Italy a false start …

Nothing premeditated. Germany, France and the United Kingdom have simply taken note of reality: in Libya, Italy has disappeared, Turkey today has much more. While Italian politicians get caught up in their threshing floor regardless of what happens outside their garden, international summits continue.

Is Italy no longer a NATO reference in Libya?

Everyone has noticed that Italy has slipped away in recent months, despite the laudable efforts of the Italian embassy in Tripoli and some foreign ministry officials who have tried in every way to maintain high attention. We would expect a greater interest in Italian politics, which instead failed. An error that will have its consequences.

Which?

In Libya, every time a void is created, it is immediately filled. This is what happened with the Russians, who gradually replaced the Americans. It’s happening to Italy with the Turks. The Italian government has had a more assertive phase in Libya, now it has stepped aside. The briefing of the NATO countries without Italy is a clear message: we do not go on in alternate phases.

Conte assured that he will talk about Libya with Trump.

The premises are not rosy. To capitalize on the Conte meeting, he must explain that Italy has moved away from Libya only for a short period due to internal political problems, but that the region is still in the Italian national interest.

What can Italy ask the United States for?

An intervention alongside the Tripoli government recognized by the UN. It is essential to equalize the forces on the field and save Tripoli. The capital is continually subjected to the bombing of Haftar, a diplomatic miracle is needed.

For example?

The hope is that he will openly take sides with the Serraj government, yielding to pressure from the Emirates and Egyptians who are increasingly asking the Americans to sit around a table to negotiate and unblock the stall. I doubt however that Trump is asking Italy for a change of direction

What is the prevailing line in Washington DC?

Inside there are different souls. A neo-con, well represented in the National Security Council, for which Haftar is to be considered a lesser evil for NATO, because it has cleaned up the country from Islamist militias. Another current, prevalent in some sections of the Pentagon, in the State Department and in much of the Congress, pushes for the president to defend the government recognized by the UN and condemn the bombing of civilians. Trump is in the midst of these pressures, and has not yet decided which side to take.

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