ALGIERS, Algiers (AP) – Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni He arrived in Algeria on Sunday for a two-day visit as the two countries forge a strategic partnership and Italy works to wean itself off Russian energy with the help of the gas-rich North African nation.
Algerian state television announced Meloni’s arrival without any photos or fanfare.
He was welcomed by Prime Minister Aymene Benabderrahman. Like all rank-and-file visitors, Meloni’s first stop was to lay flowers at the Martyrs’ Monument. A monument on a hill overlooking the capital city is dedicated to the memory of Algerians who died for independence. From France in 1962.
The Italian leader also planned to visit an Italian naval ship in the port of Algiers.
Algeria has replaced Russia as Italy’s No. 1 energy supplier, Rome seeks to increase this partnership. However, topics such as naval development, automobiles and start-ups are on Meloni’s agenda, a sign of deepening cooperation between the two countries.
Meloni is scheduled to meet with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Monday. They last met in November at a climate conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Then many agreements will be signed. It was not clear if there would be another power deal.
Russia’s war in UkraineIt has disrupted global strategic and economic dynamics and brought new and urgent changes to relations between Algeria and Italy, long dependent on Russian energy. Other EU countries are also trying to find alternative sources of Russian energy.
Italy and Algeria want to supply Algerian energy to Italy, building on a successful initiative launched by then-Prime Minister Mario Draghi last year, and an Algerian diplomat wants to “push it further”.
“We want Italy to become the European center for Algerian gas. A crossroads for the rest of the EU,” Algerian Ambassador to Rome Abdelkrim Touhria said in an interview with the Rome daily Il Messaggero on Saturday.
Draghi’s first deal last year included an additional 9 billion cubic meters of gas to be sent through the Trans-Mediterranean pipeline by 2023-2024. A few months later, in July, a $4 billion deal was signed between Eni, the Italian energy company, Occidental and Total.
Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi was to be among the Italian delegation accompanying Meloni.
Meloni’s visit to Algeria is the third in less than a year as Italian prime minister, but it is far smaller than that of his predecessor. Algeria’s official news agency APS described it as “an opportunity to strengthen the Algerian-Roman axis” and “another step towards strengthening a true strategic partnership”.
Touahria, the Algerian ambassador in Rome, said that Italy’s Eni and the Algerian oil company Sonatrach are looking to the future together on projects such as oil and gas exploration in the sub-Saharan region.
Meloni’s far-right coalition won national elections in September, and immigration and migrant issues, a priority for Europe’s far-right, will also be a topic of discussion during his visit.
Italy attracts migrants fleeing poverty, war and other hardships at home, mostly North Africans from Tunisia and Algeria.
Official Algerian news agency APS quoted Touhria as saying that Italian consular staff in Rome regularly try to track down illegal immigrants detained in Sardinia and southern Italy.