Libya 'a priority' in Isis fight: Renzi

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Italy's premier Matteo Renzi (R) will meet French President François Hollande in Paris on Thursday. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP
18:00 CET+01:00
UPDATED: Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said that the conflict in Libya was Italy's main priority, following a meeting with French President François Hollande on Thursday morning.

"Libya is the next focus," he said. "We must give top priority to Libya, which is likely to be the next emergency."

Hollande had called the meeting with Renzi to discuss ways Italy can support France in its military campaign against Isis. On Monday Italian media reports suggested France would ask Italy to commit soldiers on the ground in Libya, according to La Repubblica.

But Renzi was still unclear as to what military action Italy would take in the western coalition against Isis.

Once again he underscored his belief that defeating Isis would require more than firepower alone.

"It also needs a cultural response, not just a military one," Renzi told reporters in Paris.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni suggested that Italy was prepared to agree to France's plea for support.

“France has asked for help to lower its burden in some areas of conflict,” the minister said. “For us it is a moral and political duty.”

Isis has a considerably strong foothold in Libya, specifically around the northern city of Sirte.

Many of the estimated 140,000 African migrants who have come to Italy this year have set sail from neighbouring Libyan shores.

Since the attacks in Paris earlier this month, France has stepped up its campaign against Isis with a string of airstrikes against key Isis targets - something Italy has repeatedly stated it would not get involved in.

Over the past week, Hollande has met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and American President Barack Obama to ask for their military support.

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On Thursday Germany said it would send Tornado aircraft and warships to Syria, while UK Prime Minster David Cameron has been drumming up support for airstrikes against Isis in Syria ahead of a parliamentary vote on the matter early next week.

On Thursday Hollande flew to Russia on to meet President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.

While in Paris, Renzi also made a speech at the Sorbonne University, where the sole Italian victim of the Paris attacks, 28-year-old Valeria Solesin, was studying to complete a Phd.

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