Italy must maintain presence in Libya - minister

Italy must maintain presence in Libya - minister

It is vital for Italy to remain in its former colony of Libya to try and stop the warfare ravaging the country, fuelled by "foreign interference", defence minister Lorenzo Guerini said on Thursday.

"As our diplomatic efforts continue with all actors (Libya's institutions, Turkey, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates) to end the ongoing military conflict, it is more important than ever to retain our presence in the country," said Guerini.

Guerini was addressing a joint session of the foreign affairs and defence committees of the lower and upper house of parliament.

"Doing so has the dual objective of being ready to protect our national interests and Italian personnel in Libya, as well as maintaining a preferential channel of dialogue with the Libyans," he continued.

Italy should at the same time keep monitoring developments in Libya, especially regarding Turkey's "growing importance" he said.

Italy's foreign minister Luigi Di Maio held talks in Tripoli on Wednesday with the internationally recognised Government of National Accord, whose Turkey-backed forces repelled a 14-month assault by eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar on Tripoli in early June.

Egypt at the weekend threatened military intervention in Libya if GNA- allied militias advanced on the strategic coastal city of Sirte. The GNA has in recent weeks regained control of other strategic locations including Tarhuna, Haftar's final stronghold in western Libya.

Libya has been wracked by violence that has drawn in tribal militias and foreign actors since late dictator Muammar Gaddafi's Nato-backed 2011 ouster and has had rival administrations in Tripoli and the east since 2014.