Italian FM reaches Tripoli on unannounced visit for talks with GNA head

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Italian FM reaches Tripoli on unannounced visit for talks with GNA head
Italian FM reaches Tripoli on unannounced visit for talks with GNA head :File Photo

Italian FM made an unannounced visit to Tripoli, where he held talks with Fayez al-Sarraj, prime minister of internationally-recognised government.

Visit by Luidi di Maio comes weeks after GNA forces repelled Khalifa Haftar’s offensive on the Libyan capital.

The trip by Luigi Di Maio on Wednesday came weeks after forces loyal to the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) repelled a 14-month-long offensive by eastern-based renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.

Di Maio and al-Sarraj stressed “the need to resume the political process and end foreign interference” in Libya, according to a statement released by the GNA prime minister’s office.

The North African country, a major oil producer, has been mired in chaos since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

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Since 2014, it has been split between rival factions based in Tripoli and in the east, in a sometimes chaotic war that has drawn in outside powers and a flood of foreign arms and mercenaries.

Referring to a naval operation launched by the European Union in the Mediterranean to enforce an arms embargo on Libya, al-Sarraj said enforcement needed to be “global”, covering maritime, land and air routes.

Al-Sarraj, whose government has received weapons from Turkey, has previously criticised Operation Irini on the grounds it favours eastern-based Haftar, who takes delivery of arms overland and via air.

Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have all supported Haftar.

Di Maio, who last visited Libya in January, and al-Sarraj also discussed the issue of undocumented immigration, and Italian support for demining Tripoli’s war-ravaged southern suburbs, according to the prime minister‘s office.

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An unnamed Italian foreign ministry source, cited by the Italian Messaggero daily, said Italy considers Libya “a priority … our most important issue, which concerns our national security“.

“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.

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.

Cairo has warned that advances by Turkey-backed forces on the coastal city of Sirte could prompt an Egyptian military intervention.

The GNA denounced Egypt’s statements as a “declaration of war”.