French vs Italian support to Libyan rival sides depends on vital interests: Expert

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The support from either France or Italy for either rival sides in the conflict in Libya depends on their own vital interests, according to Wolfgang Pusztai, Austria's former defense attaché to Libya.

“Actually, France is very much worried about the current developments in Libya. And this is especially as France is very much aware about the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamists, on the Government of National Accord (GNA), and on economic institutions,” Pusztai told Al Arabiya.

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“They are also aware of the number of jihadists who have arrived in Libya from Syria. And they are aware that the number of jihadists of various groups is using southern Libya as a safe haven, and this is actually directly threatening French vital interests,” he added.

French President Emmanuel Macron will hold a videoconference with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday, with the coronavirus pandemic and the crises in Libya and Syria on their agenda, France announced on Wednesday.

France's foreign ministry on Wednesday also called on its European Union partners to hold urgent talks on the bloc's future relations with Turkey, which has clashed with Paris over its role in Libya.

As for the Italians, Pusztai told Al Arabiya English that they were always in support of whichever government was holding Tripoli.

“This is right now as you know the Government of National Accord and therefore, they are also in support of this government. They are aware that they will have some troubles because of the Turkish intervention. They are aware that Turkey will use certainly use this opportunity to pressure Italy and the Europeans via migration,” Pusztai said.

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“So, Italy is a way out for Turkey. Turkey will use this position to pressure Italy. But for the time being, they don't really have an idea what to do about this other than to seek the cooperation, the continued cooperation, with the GNA and to seek also for cooperation with Turkey,” added Pusztai, a security and policy analyst with a special focus on the MENA region and a graduate of the US National War College.

Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longt-time dictator Muammar Ghaddafi.

The Arab League on Tuesday called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces in Libya and urged talks on ending the conflict in the north African country.

The Turkish-backed GNA has been fighting with the Libyan National Army led by General Khalifa Haftar, who seeks to regain control over the west of the country.

(With inputs from Reuters and AFP)