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    A Libyan army soldier stands guard sitting on an antiaircraft truck during the handover of the Nawaseen military compound, which was the headquarters of Libyan militias, in Souk al-Juma district, Tripoli, Libya

    Is Libya a Bargaining Chip for Conflicting Italian Parties Ahead of EU Election?

    © AP Photo / Manu Brabo
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    The escalation in Libya has driven a wedge between Lega and the Five Star Movement in Italy. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and head of Lega, Matteo Salvini have expressed concern regarding the possible arrival of foreign fighters.

    The Five Star Movement doesn’t share Salvini’s hard line with regard to closing ports. What risks does the Libyan issue entail for Italy? What role could Russia play in Libya? 

    Sputnik has spoken to Mirko Molteni, a military expert and commentator for Libero and Analisi Difesа, to find out.

    Sputnik: Matteo Salvini, head of Italy's Interior Ministry, advocated the "closed ports" concept, whereas the Five Star Movement seems to have quite a different view on the Libyan crisis issue, as well as on the flow of migrants.  Do you think this conflict is due to the approaching European elections?

    Mirko Molteni: The disagreement between the Lega and the Five Star Movement over the Libyan issue is due to electoral reasons. The left-wingers see that the Lega's hard line on immigration control is giving them more and more votes in the polls. For its part, the Five Star Movement is showing quite a different stance in order to show their independence from the Lega to voters. However, Salvini's line is due to a real concern, because if the fighting in Libya were to escalate, the number of possible refugees would reach the hundreds of thousands of people. Italy would have great difficulty accepting them, not to say managing these huge numbers of people — that would just be impossible.

    READ MORE: UK-Drafted UNSC Resolution Calls for Immediate Ceasefire in Libya — Document

    Nevertheless, the Five Star Movement is opposed to port closures, citing the Constitution and the refugees' right to protection from war. Faced with the issue of possible flows of migrants, we have to properly assess the magnitude of the situation. For example, Fayez al-Sarraj, chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya, recently said that about 800,000 Libyan migrants could possibly flow into Europe. Though I think this number is overstated, in any case we wouldn't be able to accept all these people.

    Sputnik: Prime Minister Conte and Interior Minister Salvini have also raised concerns about the possible arrival of foreign fighters among the Libyan migrants. How likely is that to happen due to the escalating conflict in Libya?

    Mirko Molteni: Certainly the infiltration of terrorists into Europe through illegal immigration channels is a very high risk. There are concerns that some Daesh cells are still operating in Libya, and they are probably in contact with Islamic extremists in the Sahara area. We know how the Sahara is an area of ​​illicit arms trafficking through various caravan routes and therefore surveillance must be maximised to prevent Italy from becoming a transit route for terrorists who can then reach other parts of Europe.

    READ MORE: Head of Libyan Gov't's Anti-Terrorist Service Injured in Bomb Blast — Source

    Just today, two suspected terrorists were arrested in Palermo — an Islamist and a converted Italian [the arrest happened on Wednesday].

    Sputnik: In your opinion, what role could Russia play in Libya? Could it be a mediator between the two opposing parties?

    Mirko Molteni: I believe that Russia could be a diplomatic mediator regarding the Libyan issue. Moscow currently has good relations both with Egypt and with Khalifa Haftar, who is the head of the Libyan Armed Forces. Russia also has good relations with Italy. [Foreign] Minister [Sergei] Lavrov and his team could propose a roadmap for the resolution of the conflict that would lead to a truce and to elections throughout the country.

    The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of Mirko Molteni and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik's position.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    European Parliament elections, migrants, Lega Party, Five Star Movement (M5S), European Union, Italy, Libya
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