Originally appeared at Izvestia, translated by Mario Kuoljok exclusively for SouthFront; Edited by Desi Tzoneva
Representative of the commander of the Libyan army’s handed over a letter during a meeting at the Russian Foreign Ministry, addressed to the Russian President and the defense minister, containing a request for assistance.
Libyan Army Commander, Marshal Khalifa Haftar, sent a message to Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, and Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, in which he asked for arms shipments for his country’s troops. The message was handed over to the Russian side by special envoy, Libya’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Abdel Basset al-Badri, who met with the Russian President’s special representative for the Middle East and Africa, Mikhail Bogdanov. This was reported by a source close to Russian diplomatic circles.
“Indeed, such a meeting happened. Al-Badri visited Moscow for one day. During the talks with Bogdanov, the lifting of the embargo and the beginning of the supply of weapons were discussed. Libya’s request is not only about small arms, but also equipment for aircraft. In addition, they urged Moscow to start a military operation against the Islamists in Libya, similar to the type that is now going on in Syria,” the source said.
According to the State Duma’s International Affairs Committee Member, Anwar Makhmutova, supplying weapons to the Libyan army to fight against Islamists makes sense.
“If it will help the constructive forces with which you can maintain an adequate dialogue to restore order in the country, I am in favour of such supplies. In Libya, there are people who previously collaborated with Russia or have studied with us (Khalifa Haftar received additional military training in the Soviet Union in the 70s and is fluent in Russian). They want us to participate in stabilising the situation in the country. And probably, without us, they will not succeed. The majority of Libyans do not believe in the USA after the events of 2011, and those who are in contact with Washington, are likely not interested in resolving the crisis. With such people, it is impossible to maintain a dialogue. And the fact that the Libyans established contact with Russia, speaks about our credibility in this North African country,” said Makhmutova.
The source of Izvestia notes that Russia will have to attend to the issue of control over the arms supplies. But the problem, according to him, would be solved by the involvement of Russian military advisers, providing them with broad powers.
Khalifa Haftar is known for his anti-Islamist views. In May 2014, he launched ‘Operation Dignity of Libya’. Back then, the commander announced his intention “to exterminate all extremists and terrorists.”
“We don’t want someone from the ‘Muslim brotherhood’ on Libyan soil and will not allow anyone from this group to stay in Libya. We will not retreat until we finally deal with them and ‘al-Qaeda’ or others, who are nothing but branches of the ‘brothers’ under different names,” he said.
However, Khalifa Haftar supports the Parliament sitting in Tobruk, and opposes the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. Both bodies are recognised by the international community. However, the NTC is to gain full legitimacy in accordance with the previously-reached international agreements and must be recognised as a legislative body, which he refuses to do. The Parliament and Haftar accused the Cabinet for being dominated by delegates of the Muslim brotherhood and al-Qaeda.
Meanwhile, Russia insists on reviewing “an updated list” of the members of the GNA for the Parliament to consider, and also supports the army led by the Haftar. This position was voiced on 22 September 2016 by Deputy Foreign Minister, Gennady Gatilov, at the ministerial meeting on Libya in New York.
”We expect that the House of Representatives (the legislative body in Tobruk) will present an updated list of GNA members, and the Parliament, in turn, will approve it in the framework of existing procedures. This is the only way to give the GNA domestic legitimacy,” the diplomat noted.
Gennady Gatilov also said that “one of the key tasks of this phase is to unite the Libyan state institutions, particularly the security forces. In this regard, it would be wrong to leave the Libyan national army on the sidelines (under the command of Haftar), which is fighting the terrorists in the east.”
Orientalist and former Russian diplomat, Vyacheslav Matuzov, also believes that Russia should support the Libyan army.
”It makes sense for Russia to support the Libyan army and the Parliament behind it. And when we are finished with the processes forming the new composition of the Duma committees, it should be on the agenda for a Russian delegation to visit the head of the legislature, Aguila Saleh Issa,” said the former diplomat.