Rome, Dec 6 : Italy's Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio on Friday called Russia a "key interlocutor" in Libya, underlining that negotiation, not military force, will end the deadly conflict in the war-wracked country.
"We share with Russia the objective of stabilising Libya. Russia is a key interlocutor," Di Maio said in an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
The interview was published ahead of talks in Rome on Friday with Di Maio's Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
"When I meet Lavrov, I will reiterate our firm belief that there can be no military solution in Libya and that a situation which only creates instability can be to no one's advantage," Di Maio said.
"This why external interference must cease," he said.
Instead a diplomatic push is needed in Libya, Di Maio argued.
"All available energy should go into persuading the various sides that pursuing a political solution to the conflict is the only way forward." His comments came after the New York Times reported last month that several hundred Russian mercenaries including expert snipers have been fighting in Libya since September alongside the forces of eastern military warlord Khalifa Haftar.
Lavrov held talks on Friday with Italy's Premier Giuseppe Conte, according to a short statement from Conte's office.
The veteran Russian diplomat is attending the MED 2019 Dialogues high-level conference taking place in the Italian capital till Saturday. Lavrov was also due to meet Di Maio Friday on the sidelines of the conference, the Foreign Ministry said earlier this week.