23:19 GMT +320 November 2018
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    U.S. President Donald Trump and Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte arrive for a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 30, 2018

    Trump Setting Italy, France on Collision Course Over Libya – Journalist

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    Ekaterina Blinova
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    Washington has seemingly chosen Italy as its key European ally, by backing Rome in both its migration and Libyan policies, Italian journalist Daniele Pozzati told Sputnik. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron, who laid the claim for the EU leadership role, is losing political points.

    "By recognizing Italy's prominent role in the stabilization of Libya — a role which will materialize this coming September with the organization, in Rome, of an international conference over the future of Libya — Donald Trump has chosen to back Giuseppe Conte instead of Emmanuel Macron in Libya, and thus set Rome and Paris on a collision course," Italian journalist and political observer Daniele Pozzati told Sputnik.

    According to the journalist, Washington and Italy appear to be "ready to take on France and Germany on a number of issues, especially those related to immigration and the handling of the economy."

    Commenting on the July 30 summit between US President Donald Trump and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Pozzati opined that it was "mainly about Libya."

    "Libya is the gate through which mass immigration from sub-Saharan Africa reaches Italy — with a lot of help from a number of foreign NGO's ships, whose well-advertised 'life-saving' operations are largely seen by the new Italian government, especially Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, as mere people smuggling," the political observer elaborated, highlighting that the US president had recently endorsed Italy's migration policies.

    He stressed that due to it being ostracized by the EU and threatened by financial operators close to Brussels and Frankfurt, Italy's new government "needs friends and allies — ideally, heavyweights."

    However, that is not all, according to the journalist: "Conte had something more specific in mind: The organization, this coming autumn, in Rome, of an international conference on Libya — a country which, following NATO's ill-conceived 2011 military operation, still lacks a central political authority."

    Judging from Trump's recognition of "Italy's leadership role in the stabilization of Libya and North Africa", Conte has accomplished his mission to secure US backing for a leading role of Italy in Libya, the observer underscored.

    "Trump and Conte seem to get along well on a personal and on a political level," Pozzati presumed. Furthermore, "with regard to the EU, Italy and the US are now natural allies: Both resent a Germany-led EU and the Germany-backed euro," he added.

    French President Emmanuel Macron stands between Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj (L), and General Khalifa Haftar (R), commander in the Libyan National Army (LNA), who shake hands after talks over a political deal to help end Libya’s crisis in La Celle-Saint-Cloud near Paris, France, July 25, 2017
    © REUTERS / Philippe Wojazer
    French President Emmanuel Macron stands between Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj (L), and General Khalifa Haftar (R), commander in the Libyan National Army (LNA), who shake hands after talks over a political deal to help end Libya’s crisis in La Celle-Saint-Cloud near Paris, France, July 25, 2017

    Italy is Likely to Play the First Fiddle in Libya

    It appears that Conte has outplayed French President Emmanuel Macron, who not only previously boasted having "special relations" with Washington but also hoped to become a major broker in the longstanding Libyan confrontation.

    In late May 2018, Paris hosted an international conference on the Libyan crisis. As a result, four rival Libyan leaders agreed to hold parliamentary and legislative elections on December 10. In July, Macron ordered French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to hold meetings with the Libyan rival parties to ensure that the process was going on.

    However, on July 27, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told Corriere della Sera that Rome would not support the Libyan elections until the political consensus is reached in the war-torn country. Three days later the Italian Prime Minister announced that he was going to organize a new conference on Libya this fall "in agreement with President Donald Trump."

    For Rome, Libya is the key to the resolution of the burning migrant crisis, Pozzati noted, adding that the refugee issue remains the bone of contention between France and Italy.

    The Libyan crisis spun out of control in 2011 after a NATO coalition headed by the US, France and the UK bombed the North African state and facilitated the ouster of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The Libyan civil war opened the door to the huge influx of African asylum seekers into Europe.

    "Relations between Paris and Rome have soured since the new Eurosceptic and anti-immigration Italian government came to power," the journalist said. "While refusing to take immigrants, Macron wants Italy to keep its ports open to all sorts of migrant-carrying NGO ships. This is unacceptable for Rome, especially since the hypocrisy of the EU was laid bare in the June 23 summit when all criticized Italy for its closed-ports policy, so to speak, while nobody opened theirs."

    Backed by the US, Rome is likely to grasp an opportunity to call the shots both on Libyan political process and migrant issues, the journalist suggested.

    The views and opinions expressed by the contributors do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    refugee crisis, conference, migration, 2011 Libya military intervention, NATO, Giuseppe Conte, Emmanuel Macron, Donald Trump, Muammar Gaddafi, Italy, Europe, United States, France, Libya
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