CAIRO (AP) - Italy's prime minister held talks Saturday in Libya on energy and immigration with Western-based government officials, issues of prime importance to Italy and the European Union. Oil companies from the two countries signed a deal worth $8 billion, the largest investment in Libya's energy sector in more than two decades.
Libya is the second North African country to be visited by Giorgia Meloni, who has been in office for three weeks. She is trying to secure natural gas supplies to replace those from Russia amid the invasion of Ukraine by Moscow's forces. Earlier, she visited Algeria, the main supplier of natural gas to Italy, where she signed several memoranda.
Meloni arrived at Mitiga airport, the only one operating in Tripoli, the capital, amid tight security measures. She was accompanied by Foreign Minister Antonio Tajanii and Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, her office said. She met with Abdel Hamid Dbeibah, head of one of the rival governments, and was scheduled to meet with Mohamed Younis Menfi, who chairs the presidential council, a ceremonial body.
During a round table with Dbeibah, Meloni reiterated what he said in Algeria, that Italy wants to increase its presence in the region, not in a "predatory" role, but to help African nations "grow and become richer".
Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Italy's state-owned energy company ENI, signed an $8 billion deal with the Libyan National Petroleum Corporation to develop two offshore gas fields. NPC chairman Farhat Bengara also signed it.
The agreement involves the development of two offshore fields in Block NC-41 in northern Libya. ENI said it will start pumping gas in 2026 and estimates reaching 750 million cubic feet (21.24 million cubic meters) per day, the Italian firm said in a statement.
ENI has continued to operate in Libya despite security concerns, producing gas mainly for domestic use. Last year, Libya delivered just 2.63 billion cubic meters to Italy through the Greenstream pipeline, well below the 8 billion cubic meters per year before the Libyan decline in 2011.