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Leaders of Turkey, Russia urge Jan. 12 cease-fire in Libya

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European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks during a media conference after an extraordinary meeting of the EU college of commissioners at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell briefed the college on Wednesday regarding the current situation in Libya and Iran. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

BRUSSELS – Turkey and Russia called for a Jan. 12 cease-fire in war-torn Libya on Wednesday while European Union officials intensified diplomatic efforts to cool tensions in the North African nation by holding talks with its prime minister.

In a related diplomatic push in Rome, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte met with Libya's Gen. Khalifa Hifter, whose eastern-based forces have launched a fresh offensive against Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj's U.N.-backed government in Tripoli.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the Jan. 12 cease-fire after the two met in Istanbul.

“Seeking a military solution to the ongoing conflict in Libya only causes further suffering and deepens the divisions among Libyans. Securing an immediate cease-fire is the foremost priority to start an inclusive intra-Libyan political process under U.N. auspices," Erdogan and Putin said in a joint statement.

Libya is currently governed by dueling authorities in the east and in the west. The east-based government, backed by Hifter's forces, is supported by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia. The western, Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.

The fighting has threatened to plunge Libya into violent chaos rivaling the 2011 conflict that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

“We have been following with great concern the recent developments, particularly the intensified fighting around Tripoli, in long-suffering Libya," Putin and Erdogan's statement said. “The worsening situation in Libya is undermining the security and stability of Libya’s wider neighborhood, the entire Mediterranean region, as well as the African continent, triggering irregular migration, the further spread of weapons, terrorism and other criminal activities including illicit trafficking."

In Brussels, Libyan Prime Minister Sarraj met with European Council President Charles Michel and EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell. Earlier this week, the EU's top diplomat and the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany and Italy condemned Turkey’s plans to deploy troops to Libya.