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Libya Caught In The Midst Of A French-Italian Brawl

Al-Etihad, UAE, August 29

There is no doubt that France and Italy currently represent absolutely contradicting strides within the European political arena. Italy has recently emerged from elections that brought to power a right-wing government dominated by an anti-EU and anti-immigrant platform. France, meanwhile, is often cited as the EU’s last remaining hope for stability and concord, given President Emmanuel Macron’s extensive effort to promote cooperation and unity among EU member states. These growing tensions between two polar opposite political forces has most recently been manifested in Libya, where both France and Italy see themselves as vital players in the local political arena. France already hosted a high-profile Libya summit this past spring, where it committed itself to overseeing Libya’s first democratic elections by the end of 2018. Italian representatives weren’t invited to participate in the talks. In retaliation, the Italian ambassador to Libya gave extensive interviews to local media outlets, where he called to postpone the elections by a few months, and described France’s actions as “rash” and “hasty.” In addition, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who entered office only two months ago, made a special trip to Washington to receive President Trump’s official blessing on this issue. In a joint press conference held by the two leaders, Trump described Italy as a “crucial player in the stability of Libya” and thanked his Italian counterpart for taking the lead on this issue. Make no mistake: While both France and Italy continue to make claims about democratic and economic reforms in Libya, this internal European broil is far from altruistic. Italy views itself as the ultimate arbitrator of Libyan affairs due to its prolonged colonial rule in the country, which began in 1910 and only ended in 1947. France, by contrast, had taken the lead on the 2011 military campaign to bring down the Gaddafi regime, which included an aggressive campaign of air strikes across the country. Since then, Paris views itself as a stakeholder in Libyan affairs. Most importantly, both countries have vested financial interests in Tripoli, since Libyan oil imports account for about a quarter of their respective oil consumption. Unfortunately, caught in the midst of this fight over custody is the ill-treated child, Libya, which just wants to put its violent past behind and start anew. Instead of providing the Libyan people with a right to voice their wishes and desires, France and Italy are calling the shots for their puppets in Tripoli. The two countries are engaging in modern-day colonialism to promote their own internal interests, not those of the Libyan people. –Hasan al-Rahman

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