ITALY STRENGTHENS MARITIME PRESENCE IN LIBYA AND HAFTAR THREATENS




By Adel Tayari – TDO- (TUNUSIA) A Libyan navy spokesman said in a statement that a new Italian navy ship would arrive at the Tripoli naval base next Tuesday, despite the threat of retired general Khalifa Hafter to attack Italian ships.

The spokesman explained that the military ship coming from Italy will be anchored for a period of time at the Tripoli naval base for the maintenance of the Libyan navy. According to Libyan naval spokesman Brigadier General Ayoub Kassem, the Italian naval vessel Commander Prosini arrived on Wednesday (August 3rd) at the Tripoli naval base to enhance technical cooperation, combat and training between the Libyan naval forces and coast guards and their counterparts from the Italian side.

The arrival of the Italian navy is the result of an agreement between Fayez Sarraj, the head of the national reconciliation government (recognized internationally) and the Italian authorities, to combat clandestine immigration.

This agreement was opposed by the Libyan parliament in Tobruk, which considered the entry of Italian naval boats into Libya a "violation of the sovereignty of the state," warning Italy of the consequences.  

In this context, retired Major General Khalifa Hafter issued orders to naval bases in the cities of Tobruk, Benghazi, Ras Lanuf and Tripoli to attack with any military vessel entering Libyan territorial waters except those authorized. The orders of Hafter came after the approval of the Italian parliament to send an Italian naval mission to help the Libyan Coast Guard in dealing with human smugglers and irregular migration, after Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni agreed to the step in his talks last week with the head of the internationally recognized Accord government Fayez Al-Sarraj.

For the reference, the Italian Defense Minister Roberta Benotti said in a parliamentary session on Tuesday "we will provide logistic, technical and operational support to the Libyan navy vessels and we will assist and support them in joint and coordinated movements."

And she added "There will be no harm or disregard for Libyan sovereignty because our goal is above all to strengthen Libyan sovereignty,", stressing that Italy had no intention of imposing a blockade on the Libyan coast.