By Giselda Vagnoni
ROME (Reuters) – The U.N. envoy for Libya voiced hope on Wednesday that efforts to establish a peace dialogue between the country’s two warring sides could bear fruit within the next two weeks.
Ghassan Salame said on a visit to Rome that contacts had been established and he hoped to see results before the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan begins in early May.
“I hope that the contacts we have established or re-established among the two 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 U.N.-recognised government based in Tripoli. The LNA mounted an offensive on the capital three weeks ago but has since 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 the nature of the contacts with the two warring groups.
Italy, whose southern islands lie very close to the North African country’s coast, fears a mass exodus of refugees from Libya which is already a jumping-off point for boatloads of African migrants seeking to a new life in Europe.
Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero, speaking alongside Salame, said he had written to the European Union asking it to be prepared to deal with a possible flight of refugees.
He referred to a EU treaty which he said would oblige the bloc to help Italy if it were to be swamped with refugees from Libya. Under the treaty, each member state would be required to receive a share of the refugees arriving there.
Libya has been in a state of chaos since dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011 with Western intervention and the latest flare-up threatens to disrupt oil flows and leave a power vacuum that Islamist militants could exploit.
(Editing by Mark Bendeich and Alison Williams)