Italy’s PM Meloni holds talks in Libya as Eni signs $8 bln energy deal

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Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni visited Libyan capital Tripoli on the occasion of the signing of an $8-billion energy deal for Italian oil giant Eni SpA, and held talks aimed at bolstering energy and migration ties with the north African country.

Under the agreement, Eni will invest in Libyan gas fields as part of a broader strategy to secure more oil and gas from North Africa. Meloni is also seeking to reinforce security ties aimed at reducing illegal immigration across the Mediterranean to Italy.

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The deal between Eni and Libya’s National Oil Corp. (NOC) is the first major gas project in the country since 2000, Eni said in a statement on Saturday. Gas production will start in 2026 and will peak at 750 million cubic feet of gas per day, according to the company. The agreement will generate $13 billion in revenue for Libya, the NOC said in a statement.

The agreement “is a turning point for Libya’s rejuvenated oil and gas sector and a signal to the world that we are open for business,” NOC Chairman Farhat Bengdara said. Two offshore platforms will be connected to Eni’s Mellitah plant and the deal will also include a carbon capture and sequestration plant.

Eni and Noc are also in talks to develop the Bouri 2 field, he added. Discoveries over the past four years can raise gas production to more than 4 billion cubic feet, the NOC chairman said.

The deal “strengthens Eni’s role as the main company operating in Libya,” Eni’s Executive Officer Claudio Descalzi said during the visit on Saturday, according to news agency Ansa.

Stronger ties

During her visit, Meloni met Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who leads the Tripoli-based administration that controls part of the divided country. Fathi Bashagha leads another administration based in the central city of Sirte. Hundreds of foreign mercenaries are also thought to remain in the country.

Italy wants to help stabilize the country and accelerate the process toward elections which had been originally scheduled for 2022, Meloni said in a press statement in Tripoli. Eni’s deal with NOC is a step toward fulfilling Italy’s ambition of becoming “an hub for Europe’s gas supply,” she added.

“Irregular migration from Libya to Italy is still high,” Meloni said.

“Irregular entries into Italy constitute over 50 percent of the people who come from Libya, and efforts to combat human trafficking must be intensified.”

Read more: Italy to ask EU to pay Libya to stop migrant departures: Reports

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