Italy’s foreign minister arrived in Tripoli on Tuesday in support of the new United Nations-backed government, marking the first visit by a top Western official since 2014.
Amid tight security, Paolo Gentiloni was welcomed at Matiga airport in the Libyan capital by Ahmed Maiteeq, deputy prime minister of the unity government seeking to assert its authority.
Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the new government that Western countries hope can unite conflict-hit Libya, was due to meet with Gentiloni at a heavily secured naval base. Italy is Libya’s former colonial ruler.Observers say the mission will be seen as a vote of confidence in the unity government and its efforts to end years of political deadlock and conflict.
«I am delighted to be in #Tripoli for Italy’s emergency aid and to support al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord,» Gentiloni wrote on Twitter.
Italy, France, and other Western nations are increasingly concerned about a powerful Islamic State force in Libya that currently controls the city of Sirte and has perpetrated attacks across the country. These nations have offered to train security forces in oil-rich Libya to fight this growing threat.
Libya has been in a state of chaos since leader Moammar Gadhafi was toppled and killed in 2011, leading to militias and extremist groups carving out fiefdoms and backing rival authorities.
Al-Sarraj arrived in Tripoli just two weeks earlier by sea after being prevented from landing at the airport by the Islamist-backed rival government. This government resigned last week, but a third rival government, 2011’s recognized parliament that was forced to leave Tripoli, continues to claim authority.
Mohammad Shoaib, first vice president of this government based in Libya’s far east, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that its parliament will assemble April 18 to decide whether to endorse the unity government. With parliament’s consent, al-Sarraj’s government would be able to convene in Tripoli.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.