Posts Tagged ‘Libya’

Italy rescues migrants, asks other countries to host them

July 14, 2018

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is trying to find countries willing to take in some 450 migrants rescued from an overcrowded ship in the Mediterranean on Saturday, a source at the premier’s office said.

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FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte 

A ship operated by EU border agency Frontex and a vessel owned by Italy’s tax police picked up the migrants near the Italian island of Linosa and more than 100 nautical miles from Malta, which rejected pressure from Rome on Friday to rescue them.

Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is leading a high-profile campaign to exclude humanitarian rescue ships from Italian ports and has said the migrants will not be allowed to land in Italy.

Eight of the migrants who needed medical assistance were taken to the Italian island of Lampedusa for treatment, the source said.

The source, who asked not to be named, said Salvini had spoken with Conte on the telephone about how to resolve the situation.

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“The migrants could be distributed immediately among European countries, or Italy would contact Libya to send them back to where they came from,” the source said.

A third option would be to leave the migrants on the ships temporarily while their asylum requests are considered, the source added.

The source said Conte would write to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk and other European heads of state to urge them to apply the European principles on migrants that were restated at a summit in June.

“Italy is no longer willingly to take on, alone, a problem that affects all European countries,” the source said.

Late on Friday, Malta said the people traveling on the packed vessel were Italy’s responsibility.

In two similar stand-offs between Rome and Valletta since Italy’s new populist government took office, migrants ended up in Spain and in Malta.

According to international law, refugees cannot be returned to a place where their lives are in danger. Both the United Nations and EU have acknowledged that Libya is not safe.

Earlier this week, however, Salvini asked EU interior ministers to declare Libya a place of safety where migrants can be taken after they are picked up at sea. German, Austrian and French ministers agreed it could be done, Salvini said.

Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by Helen Popper

Reuters

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Libya’s Sharara oilfield cuts output after workers abducted

July 14, 2018

Production at Libya’s giant Sharara oil field was expected to fall by at least 160,000 barrels per day (bpd) on Saturday after two staff were abducted in an attack by an unknown group, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) said.

Image result for Libya's El Sharara oilfield, Photos

Libya’s El Sharara oilfield

The attack happened at a control station on the outskirts of Sharara, about 40 km (25 miles) from the main part of the field, engineers at the field said. One of the abducted workers was Romanian, they said.

NOC said it expected output to drop by 160,000 barrels per day (bpd), although one engineer said output at the field, which had been producing 200,000-300,000 bpd recently, had already dropped to below 100,000 bpd.

Tripoli-based NOC operates Sharara in partnership with Repsol, Total, OMV and Equinor, formerly known as Statoil.

The field, in Libya’s remote southwest, has suffered security problems in the past, including raids in which vehicles and mobile phones have been stolen.

The facility that was targeted on Saturday is called Station 186 and was also attacked last year.

The NOC said unknown armed assailants entered the station at 6.30 a.m. (4.30 GMT) on Saturday.

“Four of the station staff were initially kidnapped but two of them have been since released,” it said. “Oil wells in the surrounding area have been shut down as a precaution, and all other workers evacuated.”

An engineer at the field said one of the abducted workers was Romanian.

In addition to being one of Libya’s main export grades, Sharara feeds the 120,000 bpd Zawiya oil refinery on the country’s northwest coast.

Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli, Aidan Lewis and Ahmad Ghaddar; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Mark Potter and Edmund Blair

Reuters

450 migrants stranded at sea as Italy, Malta dig heels in

July 14, 2018

Another 450 migrants on board two military vessels were stranded at sea on Saturday as Italy and Malta locked horns over whose responsibility it was to offer them safe harbour.

The boats, which are currently in Italian waters, had initially set sail from Libya in a single wooden vessel which was identified early Friday while passing through waters under Malta’s jurisdiction.

But Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has authority over the country’s ports, on Friday refused to let them dock in his latest show of intransigence over migrants stranded at sea.

And on Saturday, as those on board were transferred to two other vessels, he insisted the boats be instructed to “head south, to Libya or Malta”.

© AFP | Late on Thursday, an Italian coastguard vessel carrying 67 migrants was allowed to dock in Sicily

“We need an act of justice, of respect and of courage to fight against these human traffickers and generate a European intervention,” he said in talks with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, his remarks carried by Italian news agencies.

In an exchange of messages, emails and phonecalls on Friday, Rome had tried to push Valetta to take responsibility for those on board the wooden boat.

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Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini

But Malta said the ship was much closer to the Italian island of Lampedusa, insisting that those on board only wanted to reach Italy.

On Saturday morning, they were transferred to two military vessels but where the vessels will dock remains unclear.

Eight women and children were taken to Lampedusa for medical treatment.

The new standoff kicked in just hours after 67 migrants were allowed to disembark from an Italian coast guard ship in Sicily late on Thursday.

Salvini, who took office when Italy’s new populist government came to power on June 1, wants to block any further migrant arrivals by boat and has banned charity rescue ships from docking in Italian ports, accusing them of aiding human traffickers.

Last month, the French rescue ship Aquarius and the German boat Lifeline, who between them were carrying hundreds of migrants, were forced to divert to Spain and Malta respectively after Italy turned them away.

Italy, Greece and Spain have been on the front line of the migrant crisis, with Europe deeply divided over how to share the burden of the massive influx of people seeking to create a new life in Europe.

AFP

Italy in new migrant boat standoff with Malta

July 13, 2018

Italy on Friday urged Malta to go to the aid of an overcrowded boat carrying hundreds of migrants, only hours after the Italian president intervened to end a dispute within the ruling coalition over rescued immigrants.

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 Diciotti ship of the Italian Coast Guard, with 67 migrants on board rescued 4 days ago by the Vos Thalassa freighter, enters the Sicilian port of Trapani, southern Italy, Thursday, July 12, 2018

There have been two similar stand-offs with Malta since Italy’s new populist government, which pairs the far-right League party with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, took power on June 1.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also leader of the League, said Italy would not take in the migrants because they were Malta’s responsibility. Malta, a small island nation, has generally refused to take in large numbers of boat migrants.

Italy has seen more than 650,000 arrivals on its shores since 2014.

“Since this morning a large boat with 450 illegal immigrants on board has been in waters patrolled by Malta, which has taken responsibility for it,” Salvini wrote on Facebook.

The boats also often carry refugees, as did one with some 30 Syrians who were picked up by the Italian coast guard earlier on Friday. They were taken to the island of Lampedusa.

Salvini added: “But hours later no one has moved, and the boat is again heading toward Italy … This boat cannot and must not arrive.”

Minutes later, Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, who is a member of 5-Star, also urged Malta to act.

“According to the maritime law, it’s Malta that must send its own ships and open its own ports,” he said on Twitter. “Our coast guard can act, if needed, in support, but Malta should immediately do its duty.”

A spokesman said the Maltese government is following developments, but had no further comment. The large boats are particularly dangerous because they have often capsized in the past, trapping hundreds of people below deck as they sink.

PRESIDENT INTERVENES

Since taking office, Salvini has led a high-profile campaign to shut humanitarian rescue ships out of Italy’s ports, a move supported by 5-Star. But the League leader’s hardline immigration stance rankled his coalition allies this week.

On Thursday, Salvini had refused to allow 67 migrants brought by the country’s coast guard to a Sicilian port to disembark — even though Toninelli, who oversees the coast guard, had told them they could.

Making a rare foray into day-to-day politics, President Sergio Mattarella contacted Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte late on Thursday to express his concern about the plight of migrants on the coast guard vessel.

After receiving Mattarella’s phone call, Conte, an academic who is close to 5-Star but not a member of either party, ordered the migrants be allowed off the ship. Salvini said he had learned of the president’s move with “regret and amazement”.

Now Salvini and Toninelli, whose parties were rivals before the March national elections, appear to be on the same page again.

The League and 5-Star have pledged to crackdown on migration even though arrivals from Libya, where people smugglers operate with impunity, are down more than 85 percent this year.

Though arrivals have plummeted, people are still dying at sea. In the past four weeks, since charity boats have been locked out of Italian ports, more than 600 people, including children, have drowned or gone missing at sea, the International Organization for Migration estimates.

Additional reporting by Chris Scicluna in VALLETTA; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Catherine Evans

Reuters

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The Associated Press

July 13 at 1:35 PM

ROME — The Latest on the migrant crisis in Europe (all times local):

6:25 p.m.

Germany says a change to the European Union military mission in the Mediterranean should only happen after talks at the European level.

Italy’s populist government has launched a crackdown on migration and is seeking to renegotiate the mandate of Operation Sophia to prevent migrants rescued at sea from being brought to Italy.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Friday that “if there is to be a change to the Sophia mandate then it should be discussed at the European level.”

Seibert said Operation Sophia is also meant to help train the Libyan coast guard to patrol its own coastline, calling this “a very sensible mission.”

He added: “It’s important that as part of this mission innumerable lives have also been saved.”

___

5:50 p.m.

Italy is insisting Malta must rescue 450 migrants at sea and give them safe harbor.

Italian Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli has tweeted that a boat with 450 persons has been navigating for hours in Malta’s search-and-rescue area in the Mediterranean. He said “under the law of the sea, it’s Malta which must dispatch its own boats and open up” its port.

Toninelli says Italy’s coast guard can help if needed but “Malta must immediately do its duty.”

Malta didn’t immediately respond to Italy’s appeal.

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Matteo Salvini

Italy’s right-wing interior minister, Matteo Salvini, says his country can no longer offer safe harbor to “fake” asylum-seekers rescued at sea.

Numbers of rescued migrants have sharply declined this year, but in recent years some 600,000 migrants arrived in Italy after rescue from smugglers’ unseaworthy boats. The majority were denied asylum.

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2:15 p.m.

Turkey’s state-run news agency says that Turkish coast guard helicopters have rescued 34 migrants who were stranded on a small island in the Aegean Sea.

Anadolu Agency said the group, which included at least five children, was trapped on Bogaz Island between the Turkish coastal resort of Cesme and the Greek island of Chios on Friday.

The migrants were evacuated to a parking lot for trucks near Cesme were medical teams were on standby.

Anadolu said the coast guard was also searching for another migrant who was reported missing by the group. There was no further information on the migrants or how they got stranded.

___

1:30 p.m.

Italian prosecutors are investigating alleged threats by migrants against a tugboat crew who rescued them in the sea off Libya.

An Italian coast guard vessel brought back 67 migrants Thursday night to Trapani, in western Sicily.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has said a Sudanese and a Ghanaian among the migrants allegedly tried to hijack the tug so it wouldn’t return them to Libya, where migrants have been tortured in crowded detention centers.

Salvini had demanded the migrants not be allowed to disembark.

After President Sergio Mattarella expressed humanitarian concerns Thursday, authorities gave docking permission. Young children and women, including an injured woman, were among the migrants rescued on Sunday by the Italian tug.

The tug’s captain, saying the migrants were rebelling, asked Italy’s coast guard to take the migrants.

Italy’s Salvini wants ‘guarantees’ before rescued migrants land

July 11, 2018

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on Wednesday called for “guarantees” before allowing an Italian coastguard ship with more than 60 migrants on board to dock.

© AFP/File | Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini accuses the NGO ships of aiding human traffickers to bring migrants to Europe

Some of the 67 migrants on the “Diciotti” (Eighteen) vessel are believed to have revolted on a previous boat over fears they could be returned to Libya.

The sailors on that ship had locked themselves in the control room and called for help at the Rome-based rescue centre, according to Italian media reports.

Italian Coast Guard’s Diciotti

“For the moment, no port” for Diciotti, Salvini told journalists, adding that any “perpetrators of threats or aggression” would find themselves in prison.

The coastguard vessel could nevertheless dock at the Sicilian port of Trapani. The boat was expected to arrive on Wednesday evening but its landing has now been shifted to Thursday morning, according to media reports.

Once in Trapani, Salvini warned, “the violent pirates will have to get off the ship in handcuffs”.

Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister and leader of the far-right League party, has banned NGO rescue boats which pick up migrants in the Mediterranean from docking in Italy.

He accuses the NGO ships of aiding human traffickers to bring migrants to Europe.

“I will not allow any kind of landing until I have assurances for the Italian people that delinquants, who are not refugees, who have hijacked a ship with violence, spend some time in prison, and are taken back to their homes as soon as possible,” he said.

Salvini will meet his Austrian and German counterparts in Innsbruck, Austria, on the sidelines of a meeting of EU interior ministers scheduled for Thursday.

Having blocked the NGO ships, he intends to ask them “not to send ships currently on an international mission in the Mediterranean to Italian ports”.

The case of the Diciotti has also highlighted a split within the government coalition, which includes the League and Luigi Di Maio’s Five Star Movement whose left fringe is opposed to the closing of Italian ports.

Di Maio, also a deputy prime minister, said Tuesday if the vessel “intervened in a situation… we must follow up and let it land.”

OPEC Will Struggle To Bring Prices Down

July 11, 2018

Cartel faces serious challenges despite injection of extra crude from Libya

By David Sheppard

Libya, which has been wracked by war and civil strife since 2011, is reopening four major ports that its state oil company had lost control of © EPA

US president Donald Trump has been demanding Opec lower oil prices for weeks. On Wednesday he might have temporarily got his wish, albeit from an unexpected source: Libya.The Opec member, which has been wracked by war and civil strife since 2011, announced it was reopening four major ports that its state oil company lost control of last month.

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Brent crude, the international benchmark, quickly dropped 2.5 per cent to below $77 a barrel, as traders bet that around 800,000 barrels a day of crude exports that had been under threat were going to now make it to market.But for those in Opec breathing a sigh of relief, hoping Mr Trump might soon be sated, they may still want to take a pause.

While the immediate risk of higher oil prices has been reduced by the news out of Tripoli, a number of serious challenges remain even as Saudi Arabia and others in the cartel have started to rapidly increase output to make up for shortfalls in other members.

Venezuela shows little sign of stemming its collapse in production amid a political and economic crisis. It lost nearly 50,000 b/d in June, according to Opec, taking losses since this time last year close to 700,000 b/d. Angola’s output has dropped 300,000 b/d in a year due to under-investment.

Libya remains a near basket case, with no part of the underlying political situation any closer to being resolved.

“We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” was the frank assessment of one Libya watcher.The scale of the challenge was illustrated by Opec’s own monthly report on Wednesday.While the group estimates that demand for its oil will fall next year by 760,000 b/d to 32.18m b/d — a substantial drop as demand growth slows and US shale production rises — it is still not clear if the market will be comfortably supplied.

Even as Saudi Arabia moved to open the taps, raising output by more than 400,000 b/d in June, Opec still only pumped 32.3m b/d.

The risk is that that total could fall substantially by November when renewed US sanctions on Iran’s 2m b/d of crude exports kick in.If the US succeeds in cutting Iran’s exports by half, the market will still be in a deficit without substantial further increases from Saudi Arabia and a sustained recovery in Libya.

Even if you back the Saudis to deliver, the oil market is now essentially relying on the chaotic situation in Libya becoming stable enough to keep the crude flowing.Mr Trump may not be happy with those implications for prices.

https://www.ft.com/content/30b09c08-84fc-11e8-a29d-73e3d454535d

Libya resumes oil exports from east: national firm

July 11, 2018

Libya is resuming oil exports from its eastern production heartland, its National Oil Corporation said Wednesday after a showdown between the war-torn country’s rival authorities.

The internationally recognised NOC was handed back control of four terminals in the oil crescent on Wednesday morning, it said in a statement, adding that “production and export operations will return to normal levels within the next few hours”.

Exports from all four of the region’s ports had been suspended after military strongman Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) seized them from a rival militia in June.

The NOC had declared force majeure on oil loadings at the ports, a legal measure that frees parties to a contract from their obligations due to circumstances beyond their control.

But on Wednesday it announced “the lifting of force majeure” at the Al-Hariga, Zweitina, Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra ports, which are conduits for much of the crude, gas and petrochemical sales that form the lifeblood of Libya’s economy.

© AFP/File | Libya’s eastern oil ports are conduits for much of the crude, gas and petrochemical sales that form the lifeblood of the economy

The NOC said in early July that the crisis had slashed crude production by over four fifths and cut the country’s heavily oil-dependent public revenues by some $67.4 million (57.9 million euro) per day.

Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed long-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with two rival authorities vying for control.

Haftar’s LNA recaptured the terminals in June after they were seized by armed groups led by militia leader Ibrahim Jadhran, who had controlled them from 2011 to 2016.

Haftar’s forces said they would hand the installations and their revenues to an eastern administration that rivals the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord in the capital.

But the GNA urged the UN to block any “illegal” oil exports, and the NOC in Tripoli said it was the “only recognised Libyan entity” responsible for oil production and exports.

In its statement Wednesday, the NOC said the facilities had been handed back to its control, and added that its board “commended (Haftar’s forces) for putting the national interest first”.

NOC chairman Mustafa Sanallah called for “a proper national debate on the fair distribution of oil revenues”.

“It is at the heart of the recent crisis,” he said, repeating a call for public institutions to publish their budgets.

“The real solution is transparency… Libyan citizens should be able to see how every (penny) of their oil wealth is spent.”

AFP

Italy stops ship with migrants, turns up pressure on EU allies

July 10, 2018

Italy has refused to allow a commercial vessel flying an Italian flag to bring ashore rescued migrants, apparently keeping up a hardline policy on new arrivals as it presses European allies to share the burden of hosting an influx of displaced people.

A commercial ship that supplies oil platforms off the coast of Libya pulled 66 migrants to safety on Monday, but it was told not to bring them to Italy, an Interior Ministry source said.

Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said the migrants had been transferred to an Italian coast guard vessel on Tuesday. They will be brought to Italy, one source said, though the interior ministry source would not confirm.

The commercial ship picked up the migrants though it had been told Libyan patrol boats were coming to retrieve them, the interior ministry source said.

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The move comes two days before a meeting of European interior ministers in the Austrian city of Innsbruck, where German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer wants his far-right Italian counterpart Matteo Salvini to agree to take back migrants who arrive at its borders from Italy.

“What is certain is that for Italy there is no plan to take back who has gone abroad. It’s the last thing that could happen,” Salvini said in an interview with Il Messaggero newspaper.

“If the Germans and the Austrians are thinking only about sending migrants back to us, helping us close the external borders first would be a step forward,” he said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government teetered on the brink of collapse last week as Seehofer’s Bavarian conservatives demanded a unilateral tightening of German border controls that she was prepared to concede only in the framework of a European agreement.

Italy’s new government, which took office on June 1, has helped thrust immigration back on to the European agenda by closing its ports to humanitarian ships that rescue migrants off the coast of Libya, and it has so far refused to accept migrants sent back from the German border.

More than 650,000 migrants, mostly from Africa and the Middle East, have been put out to sea on overcrowded boats by people smugglers since 2014. Thousands have perished, but those rescued have been brought to Italy and many later headed north to other European countries.

Salvini has said charity rescue vessels flying foreign flags would not be allowed in Italian ports, and on Sunday he said ships participating in European border control and anti-trafficking missions should not bring rescued migrants to Italy.

In less than a month, three charity ships have ended up disembarking in Spain and Malta after Italy refused them safe haven.

“Our position is to block in any way possible the trafficking of human beings,” Salvini told Il Messaggero. “We’ve done more than anyone else (to take in sea borne migrants). That’s enough. It’s someone else’s turn.”

Aid groups and U.N. agencies on Friday asked Italy open its ports to rescue ships because the policy could have a high human cost. More migrants could die at sea or be trapped indefinitely in inhumane detention centers, they said.

Reuters

Reporting by Steve Scherer, Editing by William Maclean

European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani calls for a “blacklist” of people smugglers

July 9, 2018

European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani in Libya Monday called for a “blacklist” of people smugglers to be set up to help stem the flow of migrants from Africa to Europe.

The European Union is grappling with the issue of migration from Africa and the Middle East and hammered out a controversial plan last week to curb the number of arrivals.

© AFP | European Parliament President Antonio Tajani (L) meets with Libya’s unity government Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj at his office in the capital Tripoli on July 9, 2018

People traffickers in North Africa have taken advantage of chaos in Libya since the 2011 ouster of Moamer Khadafi to send people on the perilous voyage northwards across the Mediterranean Sea.

“We have to establish a blacklist of the major traffickers… so that police and law enforcement in Africa and in Europe can work together on a common objective,” Tajani said after meeting the head of Libya’s internationally backed government in Tripoli.

“If we do not manage to destroy these criminal organisations, it will be very difficult to fight against illegal immigration.”

Italy and Greece have until now recorded the biggest numbers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach the European Union.

But with the route through Libya shutting down as the Libyan coast guard increases patrols, people smugglers are setting their sights westward to routes from Morocco to Spain.

Libya is split between rival factions, with the UN-backed Government of National accord under Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli opposed by strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east of the country.

A deal between Libya’s vying leaders was brokered in May by France to hold elections this year, but scepticism remains that the vote will go ahead.

AFP

NATO leaders fear Trump crisis at key summit

July 9, 2018

After the G7, Donald Trump could disrupt the NATO summit: “It is a shadow that hangs like the sword of Damocles over the summit.”

© AFP | NATO leaders face a major threat to the credibility of their military alliance at their summit this week– not from traditional foe Russia, but from the head of their most powerful member, US President Donald Trump

NATO leaders face a major threat to the credibility of their military alliance at their summit this week– not from traditional foe Russia, but from the head of their most powerful member, US President Donald Trump.

The gathering at NATO headquarters in Brussels, days before Trump meets his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, is shaping up to be the most difficult in years, analysts and officials told AFP.

Allies are braced for a barrage of invective from Trump for not spending enough on defence, and are apprehensive that his often sceptical tone on the alliance that has underpinned European security for 70 years might turn into outright hostility.

The 28 other NATO leaders fear a repeat of what happened at last month’s G7 summit, which ended in disarray when Trump abruptly rejected the closing statement.

“What Trump says will be decisive for the future of the alliance, but we do not know what he will say,” a diplomat from a NATO country said.

“It is a shadow that hangs like the sword of Damocles over the summit.”

Diplomats fear an acrimonious meeting could undermine efforts to show unity in the face of the growing threat on the alliance’s eastern flank — particularly with Trump set to meet Putin in Helsinki a few days later.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Friday told Bloomberg TV that the summit must show unity, warning that “our opponents would be delighted if there is a division in NATO”.

Trump’s own ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison made a similar plea for harmony during a call with reporters Thursday.

– ‘Schmucks’ –

But the mercurial tycoon set the stage for a fractious meeting by writing to around a dozen NATO allies to berate them for lagging on a 2014 pledge to try to spend two percent of GDP on defence by 2024.

Currently only three European countries hit the two percent target, and while alliance officials are hopeful that four more will join the list by the July 11-12 summit, it is unlikely to satisfy Trump.

He accuses European NATO allies of freeloading, telling a rally this week that they had treated the US like “schmucks”.

Trump has even called into question NATO’s principle of collective defence — under which an attack on one member draws a response from all — for allies he feels are not paying their dues.

NATO officials all the way up to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg point to increased military investment by the US in Europe since Trump took office as evidence of Washington’s continuing commitment to the alliance.

But comments made by Trump have undercut this, most recently when he told other leaders at the G7 that NATO was “as bad as NAFTA”, the North American trade deal he has threatened to tear up.

Unwavering support for NATO has been a basic tenet of US foreign policy since the alliance was founded in 1949, but as Trump’s emerging trade tariff war with Europe shows, the president has no qualms about upending conventional thinking on major international issues.

– Putin ‘will enjoy’ summit –

Stoltenberg has stressed the alliance’s ability to overcome differences in the past, but Tomas Valasek, director of the Carnegie Europe and former Slovak ambassador to NATO, said the situation with Trump had already undermined its ability to deter would-be aggressors.

“We’ve had violent falling outs over Libya, Iraq in 2003, but it’s qualitatively different in that the biggest of the allies doesn’t just have disagreements with us, but actually seems willing to walk away,” Valasek said.

“The deterrence has already been weakened.”

Tobias Bunde, the head of policy and analysis at the Munich Security Conference, went even further telling AFP “whether NATO can survive his presidency might very well be up to debate”.

Bunde said NATO would “very likely never be defeated by outside forces” so long as it keeps to shared democratic values.

“But this prerequisite is now undermined from within — by a couple of illiberal governments in the Alliance, and now even by the US president.”

The tensions with Trump look all the more stark in the context of a summit that will take important decisions to boost NATO’s ability to defend itself from the threat it sees from Russia.

They will sign off on two new military commands — one to protect Atlantic shipping lanes and one to coordinate troop movements in Europe — as well as a plan to beef up NATO’s ability to mobilise forces quickly in the event of a crisis.

But any divisions will overshadow these concrete steps — and play well in Moscow.

Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Putin “will enjoy the NATO summit from the perspective that it embodies further division and fragmentation.”

AFP