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What's behind Italy's growing Libya engagement as Russia influence expands?

Italy is seeking stronger ties with Libya’s rival groups, though this mission may be hindered by several challenges.
Libya's interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah (R) welcomes Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni as she arrives for a meeting in Tripoli on May 7, 2024.

Italy has been having friendly talks and increased bilateral economic activity with Libya’s two rival political groups recently, in a further bid to strengthen Rome’s bilateral engagement with its southern Mediterranean neighbor.

Rome deepened its cordial ties with Libyan authorities, when, on May 20, Business and Made in Italy Minister Adolfo Urso signed a joint declaration with Ahmed Ali Abouhisa, Libya's industry and minerals minister of the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU). The agreement focuses on fostering economic and industrial partnerships in energy, critical raw materials and green technology.

The signing of the agreement followed Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's recent diplomatic mission to Libya, where she held cordial discussions with Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, GNU prime minister, and a few hours later with Gen. Khalifa Hiftar, who is aligned with the rival Sirte-based Government of National Salvation (GNS).

During Meloni's visit on May 7, she and Dbeibah signed a series of agreements to enhance cooperation across health, education, research, youth and sports sectors. These include university exchange programs, joint research in renewable energies and an agreement to facilitate Libyans’ access to treatment in Italian hospitals when care is unavailable in Libya.

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