Coronavirus-hit Italy on Thursday urged the European Union to act in unison to prevent all-out civil war in Libya, after eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar claimed he had "a popular mandate" to govern the former Italian colony.
"Today more than ever, Europe must unite to stop arms entering Libya. There is no other way to prevent a further escalation of the conflict," Italy's foreign minister Luigi Di Maio wrote on social media.
Italy's government is working "day and night" to combat the deadly Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic that is killing "thousands and thousands of people" and which has become a "health and economic" emergency," Di Maio stated.
"In this scenario, Italy certainly cannot also take on the Libyan crisis," Di Maio underlined.
In remarks rejected by the EU, US and Russia, Haftar on Monday declared a key 2015 power-sharing deal "a thing of the past" as he vowed to press on with his almost 13-month-old assault to seize the capital, Tripoli.
Haftar's announcement came after forces loyal to the internationally recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli routed Haftar's troops ins several key cities in the country's west in mid-April.
Oil-rich Libya has had rival administrations in the east and west since 2014 as a myriad of armed groups vie for control of its resources. The conflict has increasingly become a proxy war for regional powers, with Haftar receiving support from Egypt and the UAE, and Turkey and Qatar backing the GNA .
At a conference in Berlin in January, international powers vowed to uphold a much-violated UN arms embargo on Libya, to end meddling in the country and to uphold a ceasefire - pledges that have yet to be honoured.