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Monday, December 5, 2016

Khalifa Haftar meets with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Moscow

Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), the armed forces associated with the eastern-based House of Representatives(HoR) government met Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Haftar said that he sought Russian help in his fight against Islamist militants in Libya. Haftar was visiting Moscow for the second time since this summer. He had visited in September and asked for military support. There is a UN ban on arms shipments to Libya. The HoR government is a rival to the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA). Any exception granted to the arms embargo would be granted only to approved units associated with the GNA rather than Haftar's LNA. A number of countries are supportive of Haftar including Egypt, the UAE and Russia as well it would seem. French special forces have also helped Haftar.
At the beginning of his talks with Lavrov, Haftar said: "Our relations are crucial, our goal today is to give life to these relations. We hope we will eliminate terrorism with your help in the nearest future." However, Haftar considers many Islamist militia supporting the rival GNA government also as terrorists. He is also laying siege to the city of Derna ruled by groups who were instrumental in driving the Islamic State from the city. Haftar told Lavrov that he had met Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and had told him of his military requirements. Russian authorities would not say whether it would offer Haftar military support but described the talks as business as usual. Russia previously printed banknotes for the eastern breakaway branch of the Libyan Central Bank.
Haftar said of the meeting with Lavrov: "We spoke in general. We explained our position with regards to arms supplies. As a great country, Russia respects the arms embargo until it indicates it is an unjust verdict." Lavrov said in praise of Haftar: "We appreciate your role in protecting the country’s independence and territorial integrity. We can see how deeply you understand the interconnection between the struggle for sovereignty and the need to suppress terrorists." Not a word is uttered about the Libya Political Agreement and the failure of the HoR government to vote confidence in the GNA. Not a word about Haftar's opposition to the GNA or his opposition to the Libyan Dialogue. However Lavrov does say: "We are committed to searching for ways of national reconciliation in Libya in accordance with the decisions made by the UN Security Council. Today it will be useful for us to learn your assessment of the developments." One of the UN decisions it to recognize the GNA and its institutions as the sole legitimate Libyan institutions, but Russia, along with other countries, is dealing with the army of a parallel competing institution, the government of the HoR.
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement that said: “The Russian side stressed the importance of the continuation of an inclusive inter-Libyan dialogue, based on the imperative of ensuring unity of the country, preserving sovereignty and territorial integrity of Libya. The readiness of Moscow to contribute to the successful promotion of political process in liaising with leaders of various Libyan political forces was confirmed." The statement provided no detail as to how Moscow hoped to promote the political process and create unity. The meeting with Haftar can only strengthen his resolve to continue with his Operation Dignity and his opposition to the UN-brokered Government of National Accord.
As you can see from the appended video, Haftar is not going to Russia with "cap in hand" to ask for arms but with "hat on head".


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