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Italian Parliament Approves Libya Naval Mission | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Migrants on a wooden boat are rescued by German NGO Jugend Rettet ship “Juventa” crew in the Mediterranean sea off Libya coast, June 18, 2017. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Cairo– Italian parliament approved on Wednesday a naval mission to help the Libyan coastguard in its fight against human traffickers and further reducing the number of migrant arrivals on Italy’s coasts.

Meanwhile, an Italian military ship arrived on Wednesday at the Abu Sittal Naval Port/Base in Tripoli.

In response, Tubrok House of Represntatives deemed the development as a violation of Libya’s sovereignty, saying that it did not recognize any agreement between the Presidency Council and Italy on the use of Libyan waters.

This came as Prime Minister of UN-backed government Fayez Sarraj met with Head of EU Delegation to Libya, Ambassador Bettina Muscheidt, along with a security military delegation which included Head of EUBAM Vincenzo Tagliaferri, Head of the EU Liaison and Planning Cell, Brigadier General Mauro De Vincentis and Admiral Virdis, EU Naval Force MED – Operation SOPHIA.

Ambassador Muscheidt hoped the Paris agreement between Sarraj and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar would be put in action, adding that EU is determined to support Libya at this important moment.

“EU financial support to Libya targets a wide range of sectors, among them health and education institutions, private sector development and local communities as they seek to put conflict behind them,” she added.

For his part, Sarraj pointed out that Paris meeting is the beginning of other meetings, reiterating the importance of lifting the ban on arming Libyan Coast Guard and other security forces.

Libyan Navy spokesman Ayoub Qassim stated that “Commandante Prozene” ship arrived as part of the military cooperation between Libya and Italy. He said the Italian ship would work five days with experts from different areas in cooperation with the coast guard navy.

Later, EU delegates held a meeting with Libyan officials, notably Deputy Minister of Defence Colonel Ewhida Abdullah Ewhida, Chief of the Libyan Navy Commodore Salem Ali Salem Rhoumia and the Chief of the Libyan Coastguards, Senior Commodore Abdullah Omar Toumiyah.

The EU delegate informed Libyan officials of the extension of Sophia mission until the end of the year.

Earlier, Italy’s Senate voted on sending a military mission to Libyan coasts and it approved another motion proposed by opposition party Forza Italia, which described the decision to send the mission as the first right step on the right track.

Italy’s lower house voted by 328 to 113 in favor of the mission, while the upper house voted by 191 to 47, thus granting an official order for a limited naval mission to help Libyan Coast guards.

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni announced that officials would assist the Libyan coast guard to stem the flow of irregular migration. He said the mission would help Libyan authorities reinforce their ability to control their borders and national territory.

Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti said Italy would only provide technical support without affecting the country’s sovereignty but would not take part in a “hostile” naval blockade to prevent the departure of migrant boats.

“There will be no harm done or slight given to Libyan sovereignty, because, if anything, our aim is to strengthen Libyan sovereignty,” she told parliament, stressing that Italy had no intention of imposing a blockade on Libya’s coast.