Italy: Meloni should sign a major gas deal in Libya

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni traveled to Tripoli on Saturday where she is expected to strike a major gas deal aimed at boosting Europe’s energy supplies, despite ongoing insecurity and political chaos in the North African country.

Giorgia Meloni will meet in Tripoli Mohamed al-Menfi, head of the three-member Libyan Presidential Council, and Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, head of the government of national unity (GUN) recognized by the international community.

According to statements this week from the head of Libya’s National Oil Corp (NOC), Farhat Bengdara, the deal will be for $8 billion to produce up to 850 million cubic feet (24 million m3) per day of offshore gas in Mediterranean.

For a year, European countries have sought to replace Russian gas with energy supplies from North Africa and elsewhere due to the war in Ukraine.

Italy has already taken the initiative to source gas from Algeria by establishing a new strategic partnership that includes investments to help state-owned energy company Sonatrach reverse years of declining production.

Any deal reached in Tripoli could be jeopardized by Libya’s internal conflict, which divides the country between rival factions vying for control of the government.

Highlighting these divisions, Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah’s own oil minister, Mohamed Oun, rejected any deal the NOC might reach with Italy, saying in a video on the ministry’s website that such deals should be concluded by the ministry.

NOC leader Farhat Bengdara was appointed last year by Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, whose interim government was set up in 2021 in a process supported by the United Nations.

The eastern-based parliament and factions supporting it declared in early 2022 that the government was no longer legitimate, rejecting both Farhat Bengdara’s appointment and the deals Tripoli has made with foreign states.

The chaos in Libya since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi has left much of the country in the hands of armed factions. A small Italian military mission has been deployed in Libya for several years.

(Report Ayman al-Warfali in Libya and Gavin Jones in Rome, French version Benjamin Mallet)

Add a Comment