Luigi Di Maio. (File Photo: IANS). Image Source: IANS News

Rome, Feb 19 : Russia is a key player in efforts to end Libya's protracted conflict and is seeking to foster dialogue between the oil-rich country's warring sides, Italy's Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Tuesday.

"Moscow is an important interlocutor in the solution of the Libyan crisis," Di Maio told reporters at a press conference here with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Italy's Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.

Russia's "commitment to facilitating a constructive and moderate approach by the various sides will be crucial," Di Maio underlined.

On his part, Lavrov said Russia is keen to cooperate closely with Italy in international efforts to end Libya's years-old civil war.

He expressed Russia's wish to "work intensely" with Italy for peace in Libya.

The Libya crisis has concerned Europe due to its potential impact on security and migration, as well as Russia's growing influence in the Mediterranean. Hundreds of Russian mercenaries are fighting on the side of eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar in Libya's deadly civil war.

European Union states agreed at a summit in Brussels on Monday to create a new Mediterranean mission to enforce a much-flouted United Nations arms embargo against Libya, Di Maio announced.

Stopping arms entering Libya is widely seen as crucial to ending the fighting and to a negotiated peace settlement.

A shaky truce was agreed last month, with Turkish and Russian influence, in the battle for Tripoli between militias loyal to the besieged UN-backed government and the forces of Haftar, who launched a deadly offensive to take the capital last April.

The Nato-backed 2011 ouster of late dictator Muammar Gaddafi plunged Libya into chaos with rival administrations in the east and west since 2014 - each backed by a myriad of armed groups vying for control.

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