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Italy's foreign minister pays quick trip to Libya

AFP , Wednesday 24 Jun 2020
Luigi di Maio
FILE PHOTO: 5 Star leader and Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio presents his EU election program in Rome, Italy, May 2, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)
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Italy's foreign minister made a lightening trip to Libya on Wednesday amid a flaring conflict between a UN-recognised government in the west and eastern-based forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Luigi Di Maio was due to meet the head of Tripoli's Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj, as well as the interior minister and his foreign affairs counterpart, Italian agencies Agi and Ansa said.

Rome considers Libya "a priority... our most important issue, which concerns our national security," according to an unnamed ministry source, cited by the Messaggero daily.

"We can't afford a partition of the country. That is why we went first to Ankara, a (diplomatic) channel we've always kept open," the source said, referring to Di Maio's trip to Turkey on June 19.

He last visited Libya in January.

During his Wednesday visit Di Maio is set to examine an amended "memorandum" of cooperation between the two countries over migration, the Repubblica said.

Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longt-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

The Arab League on Tuesday called for the withdrawal of foreign forces in Libya and urged talks on ending the conflict in the north African country.

The Turkish-backed GNA has recently made major military gains against Haftar's forces, who have sought to regain control over the west in an abortive attempt to seize Tripoli.

Egypt, which supports Haftar, has warned that advances by Turkey-backed forces on the strategic Libyan city of Sirte could prompt an Egyptian military intervention.

The GNA denounced Cairo's statements as a "declaration of war".

Besides Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia back Haftar's forces.

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