Shortly after the Italian parliament approved the deployment of the country’s naval forces to the Libyan shores to help combat the flow of illegal migration from the North African country to Europe, the Libyan National Army (LNA) have been ordered to take actions against foreign vessels trespassing in Libyan waters.
The Parliament’s vote, which took place on Wednesday, was quickly followed by Italian patrol boats heading towards the port of Tripoli. The move has been strongly criticized in Libya as being a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
Italian defense Minister Roberta Pinotti gave assurances that “there will be no harm done to Libyan sovereignty, because, if anything, our aim is to strengthen Libyan sovereignty.”
According to her, their intervention will be limited to providing “logistical, technical and operational support for Libyan naval vessels.” Pinotti added that they will be sharing and coordinating their actions.
The Italian navy will collaborate with the UN-backed Government of National Accord, which must give permission for any Italian ship to deploy off Libya, but which is said ready to cooperate with Italy. Meanwhile the rival Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) accused Rome of trying to “export the illegal migration crisis from its territory to Libya’s”, signaling that it could lead to a “dangerous impact” on the country’s security, economy and society.
Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar ordered that “any naval vessel that enters national waters without permission from the army” should be repelled. The LNA is loyal to the HoR, which described Italy’s move as a violation of Libyan sovereignty.
The action of the Italian navy is inciting a new wave of nationalism as activists in Tripoli hung photos of resistance hero Omar al-Mukhtar in the capital city’s main square, accompanied by the words ‘No to a return to colonization’. Libya and Italy have had a bitter history together during the colonial period.