Rome: European nations must stay in Libya if they are serious about tackling major global issues, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Thursday, as renewed fighting triggered mass evacuations of foreigners.
"Staying in Libya signifies trying to have a role in several of the most important geopolitical questions of the coming years: peace, security and immigration," Renzi told members of his Democratic Party.
Italy, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, has kept its embassy open in Libya, along with Britain.
But with rival militias plunging the North African nation back into serious unrest over the past fortnight, many countries have shut their embassies and evacuated staff, including Germany, Holland, Switzerland and the United States.
Italy has evacuated around 120 of its citizens from Libya in recent days, along with around 30 people of other nationalities, and is contacting remaining citizens in the country to extract them.
The European Union on Thursday also said it had moved its staff to Tunisia in light of the deteriorating security situation.
Renzi is due in Cairo on Saturday where the unrest in Libya -- as well as that in Syria, Gaza and Iraq -- will be at the centre of discussions.
Violent clashes raged between rival militias around Tripoli airport on Thursday, while nearby firefighters continued a five-day struggle to contain a fire sparked when an oil depot was hit by rockets.
The past fortnight has seen Libya engulfed by the worst fighting since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi three years ago, leaving around a hundred dead.