UN hopes Libya peace efforts will bear fruit

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The UN envoy for Libya hopes efforts to establish a peace dialogue between the country’s warring sides could bear fruit within the next weeks.

Ghassan Salame said in Rome contacts had been established and he hoped to see results before the Muslim fasting month Ramadan begins early in May.

“I hope the contacts we have established or re-established among the belligerents can bear fruit before the holy month of Ramadan,” Salame told a news conference.

Commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) is fighting forces backing Libya’s UN-recognised government in Tripoli. The LNA mounted an offensive on the capital three weeks ago but has been pushed back in some areas.

Salame, visiting Rome to enlist support from Libya’s former colonial power for a possible ceasefire, did not elaborate on contacts with the warring groups.

Italy, whose southern islands lie close to the Libyan coast, fears a mass exodus of refugees from what is already a starting point for African migrants seeking a new life in Europe.

Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero, speaking alongside Salame, said he wrote to the European Union asking it to be prepared to deal with a possible influx of refugees.

He referred to an EU treaty which would oblige the bloc to help Italy if it were swamped with refugees from Libya. Under the treaty, each member state would be required to accept a share of refugees arriving in Italy.