Libya: Turkey's asymmetric war against Italian interests

(To Filippo Del Monte)

After the rapid victories of the Tripoline forces against the Haftar troops in Tripolitania, the attention of public opinion on the Libyan conflict is entirely concentrated in the portion of territory between the al-Jafra air base and the city of Sirte, the terminus of the land route of oil from the southern deposits and leads to the energy markets of Mediterranean Europe.

An important event accompanied the successful campaign in Tripolitania of the GNA and the ruinous retreat of Haftar with a proposal of Egyptian mediation disdainfully rejected by Sarraj: the reopening of Sharara's oil wells after the production blockade imposed by some militias hired for the purpose by Marshal of Libya. Sharara is a real well field capable of fully extracting 300.000 barrels of oil a day and more than four months ago it was closed by the Haftarians in the context of a military and political-media campaign aimed at cutting energy supplies to the GNA and to make Sarraj lose credibility as a political and economic-commercial interlocutor in front of the European partners. At the time of the seizure of the wells the companies owning the extraction licenses - the Spanish Repsol, the French Total, the Austrian OMV and the Norwegian Equinor - could do nothing but find themselves faced with the fait accompli; these were the days of the controversial Berlin conference to which Haftar had wanted to send a clear signal: he would not have negotiated with Tripoli.

Now the managers of the Sharara wells have declared that the productive restart of the field will be gradual, initially with the extraction of 20.000 barrels per day and then return over time in full efficiency. The reopening of Sharara's wells was used as a blunt weapon in the "media war" by the government of Tripoli who thus wanted to identify Haftar as a destabilizing force for the country's normal balance.

The military victory in Tripolitania has allowed the GNA to re-establish normal commercial channels - or at least that's what the capital wants to believe - after the Haftarian sabotages of the past few months.

The El Feel wells, which had suffered the same fate as Sharara, started working again on Wednesday; important news for Italy too, given that those wells are managed by an ENI partnership with the Libyan National Oil Company (NOC).

However, the Italians have some other and more serious problems in Libya related to the ENI oil plants of Mellitah occupied five days ago for a few hours by pro-Tripoli militiamen from the city of Zuara in charge of protecting the site from the outside and asking to raise the price. the protection that the group offers to society. The militants have threatened to close the devices that allow the gas to be compressed in the pipeline to Italy. Although the matter was resolved with an unspecified "commercial agreement", the data that emerges is that the safety of the Italian technicians and of the systems owned by the Italian company, once considered intangible by almost all parties in the field, today not I'm safer.

What is certain is that the Libyan scenario after the ruinous defeat suffered by Haftar in Tripolitania has radically changed: Russian and Turkish air bases on the coast would have been science fiction until a few weeks ago, now it can be said that Italy - at least as regards the exclusively military aspects of the Libyan affair - has been excluded from his former colony. Energy interests and the little autonomy space that economic diplomacy - both official and parallel - still maintains, remain to be defended.

However in Tripoli they know that Rome "plays the double game" - so in fact the sale of the two Fremm of the Navy to Egypt and the Italian-Greek agreement on the respective EEZs have been interpreted - according to what was declared by sources close to Sarraj and not it is said that when it is time to collect the dividends of success Italy can still assert its weight against the boots on the ground Turks with Erdogan (and Qatar in a secluded position but always present in the corridors of Tripolino power) which aims to obtain oil extraction licenses and important contracts for the reconstruction of Libya.

Erdogan then collected another important success that strengthens its potential for blackmail not only in Rome but in Europe as a whole: in addition to controlling the Balkan route of migrants, the "sultan" of Ankara also controls the Mediterranean thanks to the presence in Libya and the ascendancy that the Turks have, for obvious reasons, on Tripoli. The radical worsening of Italian-Libyan relations over the past few days is a first indication that Turkey will most likely use control of migratory flows against Rome's policy in Libya.

Because if it is true that Italy in Libya is still the first investor and is the first market for Libyan exports (18% of the total), while Turkey represents only 1,5%, the area of ​​influence Italian is subject to erosion and was attacked with a parallel war while Ankara, which today plays the part of the lion, has everything to gain by gambling.

Photo: presidency of the republic of Turkey / Javier Blas