First Published: 2017-02-27

Libya PM to visit Moscow seeking better ties
Head of fragile UN-backed GNA Al-Sarraj to visit Russia in attempt to strengthen ties, analysts believe Putin seeks to gain foothold in oil-rich Libya.
Middle East Online

Libya continues to struggle since NATO-backed uprising against dictator Kadhafi

TRIPOLI - The head of Libya's embattled unity government Fayez al-Sarraj will visit Moscow this week, a government source said Monday, after a key rival sought to build ties with Russia.

A source from the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) said Sarraj would begin a visit to Moscow on Thursday, without providing further details.

The visit comes as Libya continues to be submerged in chaos, six years after the ouster and killing of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a NATO-backed armed uprising.

Sarraj's fragile GNA, formed under a UN-backed deal signed in late 2015, has struggled to impose its authority, particularly in eastern Libya where a rival administration holds sway.

Military strongman Khalifa Haftar is aligned with the rival administration and commands the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army which is battling jihadists and controls key oil export terminals.

In November Haftar travelled to Moscow to seek support for an end to a UN arms embargo and in January visited a Russian aircraft carrier off the coast of Libya.

Earlier this month, dozens of his fighters were flown to Russia for medical treatment.

Analysts believe that Russia, emboldened by its military success in Syria, is seeking a foothold in oil-rich Libya with support for Haftar.

On February 14 Russia tried to mediate a meeting between Sarraj and Haftar in Cairo, but the bid fell through.

Sarraj's visit also comes after Russian oil giant Rosneft and Libya's National Oil Corporation last week signed a deal to explore possible cooperation in various fields, including exploration and production.

Mattia Toaldo, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the agreement was "a good example of Russia's options in Libya".

"Russians could provide military support to Haftar but they would risk an indefinite escalation that would jeopardise their interests," said Toaldo.

"It is much more convenient for them to emphasise their political role as mediators between Sarraj and Haftar while deepening their business and military presence," he added.

Toaldo said he expected Sarraj to seek Russia's support for a review of the deal which paved the way for the GNA's creation.

The aim, he said, would be for Russia to persuade Haftar to support the GNA in exchange for a bigger role on the political scene.

 

More strikes hit E. Ghouta as UN delays truce vote

Russia pours cold water on UN bid to condemn Iran over missiles to Yemen

Egypt presidential race starts with Sisi likely to win

Saudi Arabia to boost entertainment in next decade

Blatter supports Morocco bid for 2026 World Cup

Turkey says US embassy Jerusalem opening in May 'extremely worrying'

Lebanon says both suspects in Kuwait murder of Filipina maid held

38 dead in Mogadishu car bombings

Morocco police arrests prominent newspaper publisher

Syria regime continues to pound Ghouta as world stutters

UN rights commission wants S.Sudan war crimes charges

Iran grounds airline's ATR planes after crash

Turkey summons Dutch diplomat over Armenian 'genocide' vote

Turkey navy threatens to engage Italian drillship near Cyprus

Iran police shoving headscarf protester sparks social media storm

UN Security Council to vote Friday on Syria ceasefire

Dubai says Djibouti illegally seized African port

Dutch parliament recognises 1915 Armenian massacre as genocide

Heavily bombarded Eastern Ghouta awaits UN resolution

Russia says Syria rebels rejected offer to evacuate E. Ghouta

UN diplomats press for Syria ceasefire without Russia veto

Iranian minister’s presence at UN rights meeting angers critics

Iran warns it will leave nuke deal if banks cannot do business

Qatar to plant thousands of trees to ‘beautify’ World Cup venues

Pro-Kurdish party says Turkey lying about 'no civilian deaths' in Afrin

African migrants protest Israeli detention policy

Egypt sentences 21 to death for planning attacks

Israeli handball teams in Qatar spark furious outcry from locals

UN report highlights S.Sudan journalist treatment

Palestinian dies after being shot by Israeli soldiers

Gulf states urge Syria to end Ghouta violence

Wanted Bahraini militants die at sea en route to Iran

Iran's Ahmadinejad calls for immediate free elections

Merkel calls for end to 'massacre' in Syria

Iraq urges FIFA to lift ban on hosting internationals

Carnage of Ghouta's bombs breaking families

Blockaded Gaza Strip forced to pump sewage into sea

African migrants start hunger strike over Israel expulsion

UN chief 'deeply alarmed' by Eastern Ghouta violence

Three militiamen killed in Libya car bomb attack

Russia denies ‘groundless’ accusations of role in Ghouta killings

Turkey says whoever helps YPG is 'legitimate target'

Morocco dismantles IS-linked terrorist cell

Turkey urged to end gas standoff with Cyprus

PKK attack near Iraq kills 2 Turkish soldiers