Italy still supports Libya's United Nations backed unity government led by Fayez al-Sarraj but considers his foe, eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar "an interlocutor" in negotiations towards a lasting peace settlement in the chaos-stricken country, premier Giuseppe Conte said on Wednesday.
"While we continue to unequivocally recognise Libya's Government of National Accord as the country's only legitimate authority, we consider General Haftar an interlocutor the process of reaching an enduring and peaceful solution," Conte said during parliamentary questions.
The populist government also supports UN mediation and its envoy Ghassan Salame's efforts to de-escalate the Libyan conflict and re-establish trust between the warring sides through confidence-building measures, Conte told lawmakers.
Haftar's forces have been locked since early April in a deadly battle for control of Tripoli with militias allied to the Sarraj government. Italy has sought a leading role in diplomatic efforts towards a ceasefire in the Libyan capital amid fears the military escalation could lead to all-out civil war.
A former Italian colony, Libya has been in turmoil since the Nato-backed ouster of late dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with rival administrations in Tripoli and in the east backed by a myriad of armed groups who are vying for control of the oil-rich country.