TRIPOLI, Libya: Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni held talks on energy and migration in Libya this weekend, which are major concerns for Italy and the European Union.
During the visit, oil companies from the two countries signed an $8 billion gas deal, the largest single investment in the Libyan energy sector in more than two decades.
Amid Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, Meloni aims to secure new supplies of natural gas to replace Russian energy, and she had previously visited Algeria, Italy's main supplier of natural gas, and signed several agreements.
Meloni, accompanied by Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani and Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, met separately with Abdel Hamid Dbeibah, leader of one of Libya's rival administrations, and Mohamed Younis Menfi, chair of Libya's ceremonial presidential council.
During a round-table with Dbeibah, Meloni stressed that Italy wants to increase its profile in the region, though it does not seek a "predatory" role, but wants to help African nations "grow and become richer."
During the visit, Claudio Descalzi, CEO of ENI, Italy's state-run energy company, and NOC chairman Farhat Bengdara signed an $8 billion agreement with Libya's National Oil Corporation to develop two Libyan offshore gas fields.
Attending the signing ceremony, Meloni stressed that the deal was "significant and historic" and will help Europe in securing sources of energy.
"Libya is clearly for us a strategic economic partner, Meloni said.
Due to Moscow's war on Ukraine, Italy has moved to reduce dependence on Russian natural gas, and last year it reduced imports by two-thirds to 11 billion cubic meters.