By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 14 February 2015:
The Italian embassy, one of the last European missions to remain in Libya, is reported . . .[restrict]to be preparing to close because of concerns about deteriorating security in the capital.
The Italians say that they now have nowhere to stay because the hotel where they have been residing for several months is no longer considered secure. The assessment follows last month’s terrorist attack on the Corinthia Hotel.
“We are considering every possibility,” an Italian official told the Libya Herald.
The embassy is known to have been under pressure back in Rome to follow other Western missions and close. However, diplomats and the Italian foreign ministry have worked to remain in Libya, pointing out the importance of keeping a presence in a country that provides so much of Italy’s energy, particularly gas. But yesterday, an Italian official admitted that closure was looking inevitable.
There are fears that as the only western embassy left in Tripoli, it would be targeted by Islamic State militants, particularly following Friday’s statement by Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni that Italy would not accept the presence of “an active terrorist threat only a few hours from Italy by boat,” and would be willing to join a UN-led force against the militants if the current UN-brokered dialogue failed.
The situation in Libya, he said, was deteriorating and the possibility of an attack by Islamic State militants could not be discounted.
Gentiloni’s statement is seen as a development of the position taken by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in December when he said he could not rule out the possibility of international military intervention in Libya if diplomatic efforts for dialogue failed to bear fruit.
Reflecting its growing concerns, the Italian Foreign Ministry again told Italian nationals yesterday to leave Libya immediately because of the situation and threats by militants against foreigners. [/restrict]