The Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged at a joint press conference in Berlin that Germany and Italy have plans to train Libyan security forces in Tunisia.
The training would be with forces from an as of yet unformed Libyan Government of National Accord. Though absent a Government of National Accord, and with diplomatic chatter increasingly indicating an intervention in Libya with or without a Libyan unity government, the announcement may be one of the last few carrots on offer before the stick falls.
In forwarding the ‘new proposals aimed at establishing a joint training mission in Tunisia to strengthen security forces in neighboring Libya,” the leaders seemed to confirm the authenticity of German plans which had been leaked in January.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi “highlighted new proposals aimed at establishing a joint training mission in Tunisia to strengthen security forces in neighboring Libya.”
According the documents leaked to the German publication ‘Der Speigel’ 150-200 German soldiers, with an unspecified number of Italians, would begin training Libyan forces in Tunisia in a few months. The training would take place in Tunisia because of security concerns in neighboring Libya.
German forces have recent experience training both the Kurdish forces in Iraq and recently reinforced a French training operation in Mali after the French redeployed forces away from Mali and closer to the Libyan border.
Martin Kobler, head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) himself German, stated in the German press that “As soon as the security situation is better in the country, I can imagine that Germany will participate in the training of security officers in Libya,”
Shortly before Kobler secured the Libyan Political Agreement on December 17, 2015, the agreement saw the formation of a Presidency Council tasked with forming a Government of National Accord. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had advanced the idea of a training program at a mid-December ministerial meeting on Libya held in Rome. The Rome ministerial was co-chaired by United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
The Presidency Council, headed by Prime Minister Designate Faiez Serraj is based in Tunis. Last week, after a deadline was missed by 48 hours, Serraj submitted a proposed list of 32 government ministers to the internationally recognized House of Representatives (HOR) in Tobruk. The HOR rejected the proposed government stating that the number of ministers far exceeded the cabinet stipulated by the Skhirat agreement. As the cabinet is intended to reflect Libya’s geographic divisions, Serraj’s changes would have altered the balance of East-West-South which had been agreed.
The House of Representatives had, under the Skhirat agreement, been given 10 days to vote, it took only seven days to reject the proposal. However, in doing so, while requesting a new list within ten days, the HOR essentially put Serraj’s Presidency Council back on the original Skhirat timetable.
The next proposal is due on February 4.
Faiez Serraj recently returned to Tunis from Egypt amidst reports in the Libya Herald that Tunisian officials had requested the Presidency Council leave Tunis for ‘security reasons’.
Quid Pro Quo
On January 20, Italian Secretary-General of Defense Carlo Magrassi, met with Tunisian Defense Minister Farhat Horchani. At a press conference afterwards Magrassi according to Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP) stated: “Italy is willing to make the experience of its military training centers available to Tunisia, particularly in terms of evaluation of operational capabilities of the three armies in the fields of military industry, intelligence, border control and training,”
There have been no comments as of yet from the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the leak to ‘Der Speigel’ or the announcement by Merkel and Renzi of a German-Italian training program on Tunisian soil.