PARIS (Reuters) - World powers need to step up efforts to stop Islamic State gaining ground in Libya while keeping up the fight against the militant group in Syria and Iraq, France and Italy said on Thursday.
French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who met in Paris, expressed concern that instability in the North African country was providing fertile soil for IS to flourish, with Renzi warning that Libya risked becoming “the next emergency”.
France is pushing for a grand coalition of world powers to destroy the militant group following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris and Hollande, after meeting Renzi, spoke of the need for a Libyan government of national unity to end anarchy.
While Renzi supported the idea of expanding the coalition against IS he did not commit Italy to providing any new military support to fight the group in Syria, where French warplanes are carrying out strikes on IS targets.
“We’re focusing our attention on the Vienna process for Syria,”, Renzi said, referring to international talks to try to find a political solution for Syria’s conflict.
“And we are particularly committed to opening this diplomatic window a little further to include Libya for the reasons President Hollande stated better than I have,” he said.
“It will be fundamental for everyone to give absolute priority ... to the Libya dossier, which risks becoming the next emergency,” Renzi added.
The North African country has slipped deeper into chaos with two rival governments, each backed by a multitude of armed factions, which has allowed IS jihadists to take control of the city of Sirte.
IS militants have tightened their grip on central Libya and carried out summary executions, beheadings and amputations, the United Nations said this month.
“We must put in place (in Libya) now what we’ve waited a long time for, which is a government of national unity, and to secure the country to prevent Daesh (Islamic State) from settling there and advancing,” Hollande said.
Libya is also the departure point for most of the more than 140,000 migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia who have come to Italy in dangerously overcrowded boats this year.
People smugglers operate with impunity against the backdrop of political chaos that has followed the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi four years ago.
Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey and David Clarke in Paris and Steven Scherer in Rome; Editing by Richard Balmforth