Italy reaches out to Libya as calamity unfolds. On Monday and Tuesday a devastating hurricane hit the Cyrenaica region in eastern Libya, rupturing a dam and causing massive floods. The death toll quickly climbed in the thousands (above 5,000 as of Wednesday) as entire swaths of the city of Derna were washed away.
- Upon learning of the catastrophe, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni sought to express her country’s closeness and solidarity to the families of the victims and to the Libyan people, according to an official statement. She activated its Civil Protection to assist the country.
Meloni calls Libyan leaders. The Italian PM then reached out to two central figures in the embattled country. First, she called her counterpart from the United Nations-backed Government of National Unity, Abdelhamid Dbeibah, to renew her condolences and convey Italy’s solidarity. Then she did the same with General Khalifa Haftar, whose forces control the region of Cyrenaica, again vowing Rome’s full availability for support during the emergency.
- Both expressed gratitude for Rome’s immediate mobilisation in support of the affected people, including operational modules of the fire brigade, the Italian Red Cross equipment and the field tents being delivered.
Codeword: pragmatism. PM Meloni’s call to Mr Haftar was made along the same lines that had brought her and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani to discuss migration with the Libyan general (who opposes Tripoli’s authority): the need to penetrate the area of interest by speaking to the person who wields power locally. As PM Dbeibah’s reach in Cyrenaica is heavily limited, it is necessary to send support in coordination with General Haftar.
- In line with Rome’s historical role as a leading actor within the enlarged Mediterranean, the government’s outreach is also a way to guarantee support and avoid leaving empty spaces for authoritarian actors to fill.
- That has been the case with the very region of Cyrenaica, where Russia’s Wagner Group forces are still present.
- The urge to aid in avoiding a further destabilisation of Libya is further underscored by the overall declining security in Northern Africa (further worsened by the deadly earthquake in Morocco and a series of coups in the Sahelian area). Knock-on effects include diminished access to food, water and economic resources, driving factors of mass migration.
Image: the Libya Observer on X