Libya’s eastern-based warlord Khalifa Haftar on Monday held talks in Rome with Italy’s foreign minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi ahead of a summit in Palermo on 12-13 November in which he will take part.
The Italian government views Haftar’s participation in the international conference on stabilising conflict-wracked Libya as crucial to the event’s success. He has the official title of “field marshal” and styles himself as a military leader capable of restoring order in the lawless, oil-rich state.
As part of preparations for the Palermo meeting, Haftar held extended talks on Sunday in Rome with premier Giuseppe Conte. He had a previous meeting with Moavero in the eastern Libyan port city of Benghazi on 10 September.
Haftar, commander of the self-styled Libyan National Army, last year seized Benghazi – the country’s second largest city – by expelling extremists and other fighters. He is the main rival of premier Fayez al-Sarraj, who leads a UN-brokered transitional government based in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
Sarraj is firmly backed by Italy, Libya’s former colonial ruler, while Haftar has the support of Egypt and the UAE, and is also courted by France.