Di Maio calls for end to interference in Libya (7)

Rome, January 7 - Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio called for an end to foreign interference in Libya before flying to Turkey to meet his Turkish opposite number after an extraordinary meeting with several European counterparts in Brussels on Libya.

Di Maio called for an end to all interference in Libya after the European talks.

"All interference must cease", he said before flying off to Turkey.

Ankara is sending troops to reinforce the beleaguered Tripoli-based, UN-recognised government, which has been under sustained attack since April by eastern Libyan military strongman General Khalifa Haftar.

Di Maio discussed the situation in conflict-ravaged Libya with his counterparts from France, Germany and Britain and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell.

The meeting "has been a good opportunity to express strong support to the Berlin process and underline our concerns over Libya," European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said after the meeting.

"We urge an immediate stop to further escalation and the external interference of the last few days," he said.

"The situation is getting worse day by day and the solution is only political.

"May the fighting in Tripoli end, an immediate ceasefire is needed." Borrell said the foreign ministers "rejected" Turkey's intervention, which "increases our concern".

Di Maio said earlier "the situation on the ground in Libya is highly delicate but that does not mean the EU should be immobile".

"I talked about it yesterday evening with EU High Representative Josep Borrell, with whom we addressed the Iranian question too. Haftar's forces were reported to be heading off from Sirte to the west of Misrata, the second biggest city after Tripoli which is loyal to the UN-Backed government.

Di Maio will meet Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday evening, sources said.

He will travel on to Cairo Wednesday and then to Algeria and Tunisia later this week.

Earlier Tuesday, the Italian defence ministry said that "no hypothesis of a withdrawal of Italian military personnel in Iraq" was being considered after the UK killing of Iran's top general. La Stampa reported on Monday that Italian soldiers who were stationed at the American 'Union 3' base in Baghdad moved out overnight. The compound has come under mortar fire after last week's US attack near Baghdad airport in which Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was killed. Around 50 Carabinieri officers engaged in training Iraqi security forces were stationed at the base.

Italian defence officials decided to withdrawn them in agreement with NATO chiefs, according to the report.

Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini urged the US to show moderation and dialogue over Iraq in a phone conversation with his opposite number, Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Guerini called for "moderation, dialogue and a sense of responsibility to manage the complexity of the current situation in Iraq" after the US killed Iran's top general, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad last week.

Italy's priority, Guerini stressed, "are the stability of the region and of Iraq, and the need to make every effort to preserve the results of the fight against Daesh achieved in these years".

Guerini also stressed to Esper the "importance of facing future developments in a coordinated way, with the aim of being able to continue the work of the anti-Daesh Coalition, inside a framework of security of our soldiers".

He said "with around 1,000 men in Iraq, over 1,000 in Lebanon in the UNIFIL mission, and little less than 1,000 in Afghanistan, Italy is among the countries that are most committed to the stability of the region."

Source: ANSA News Agency