Khalifa Haftar Image Credit: REUTERS

Rome: The head of Libya’s unity government said on Wednesday he would soon hold talks with a rival field marshal to try to halt his country’s descent into chaos, Italian media reported.

Fayaz Al Sarraj, head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, said he would meet in Cairo with Khalifa Haftar, whose forces support a rival administration, “possibly within days”.

“I confirm (the meeting) will take place soon,” Al Sarraj told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding that he and Haftar would “search for a solution for Libya”.

Libya has been riven by lawlessness and violence since the 2011 Nato-backed ouster of longtime strongman Muammar Gaddafi, with rival parliaments and armed groups vying for control of the country and its vital oil wealth.

Al Sarraj’s UN-backed government was installed in Tripoli last year but has struggled to assert itself further east, where a rival parliament and Haftar’s self-proclaimed Libyan National Army hold sway.

Egypt said last week it was working to organise direct talks between the leaders.

Al Sarraj said the meeting would be “face to face, without mediation” but warned that the two sides remained far apart.

“To insist only on the force of arms will drag us into a bloody civil war with massacres and anarchy,” he said.

Libya’s tumult has allowed Islamist militants, including Daesh, to gain a toehold, but Daesh was forced from its stronghold of Sirte in December and Haftar’s men have battled extremists for more than two years, especially around second city Benghazi.

It is thought the Cairo talks will also involve Russia, which has recently indicated support for Haftar, who reportedly made several visits to Moscow last year.