WED 15 - 7 - 2020
 
Date: Jan 23, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Salvini bashes France over Libya role in diplomatic spat
Reuters
ROME: Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, stoking a war of words between Rome and Paris, said Tuesday that France did not want to bring calm to Libya because its energy interests there clashed with those of Italy. Relations between Italy and France, traditionally close allies, have grown frosty since the far-right League and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement formed a coalition last year and took aim at pro-EU French President Emmanuel Macron.

A source in Macron’s office dismissed the latest attack as “ludicrous,” while Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte sought to ease the escalating tensions, saying relations between the two countries remained strong despite a string of recent rows.

Monday France summoned Italy’s ambassador after Salvini’s fellow deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, accused Paris of creating poverty in Africa and generating mass migration to Europe.

Salvini backed up Di Maio, saying France was looking to extract wealth from Africa rather than helping countries develop their own economies, and pointed particularly to Libya.

“In Libya, France has no interest in stabilizing the situation, probably because it has oil interests that are opposed to those of Italy,” Salvini told Canale 5 TV station.

A French diplomatic source said it was not the first time that Salvini had made such comments and that it was probably because he felt he had been upstaged by Di Maio.

The source added that the accusation was baseless and reiterated that French efforts in Libya were aimed at stabilizing the country, preventing the spread of terrorism and curbing the migration flows.

Italy’s Eni and France’s Total have separate joint ventures in Libya.

Salvini is head of the League, while Di Maio leads 5-Star. Both are campaigning hard for European parliamentary elections in May and are eager to show they have broken with the consensual politics of center-left and center-right parties.

The two men have repeatedly targeted neighboring France.

A French presidential source said populist forces in Italy and elsewhere were looking to undermine countries like France and Germany which wanted to strengthen the European Union. Looking to prevent a diplomatic rupture, the Italian prime minister issued a statement praising relations with Paris, saying that Rome merely wanted a debate within Europe on difficult issues such as immigration.

“This [row] does not call into question our historic friendship with France, nor with the French people. This relationship remains strong and steady in spite of any political disputes,” Conte said in a statement.


 
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