The prime minister of Libya’s United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) has reportedly urged Russia to help him end his war-ravaged country’s domestic conflict.
PM Fayez Serraj’s comments came on Tuesday during a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in Tripoli.
In March, Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the top U.S. commander in Africa, acknowledged that PM Serraj and former Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar from the opposition have recently visited Russia.
The top U.S. general warned that Russia’s interference on who ultimately becomes the leader of Libya’s government “is very concerning.”
Moscow primarily supports the faction led Gen. Haftar, while the United States and NATO back the GNA’s Serraj, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Nevertheless, Russia’s Bogdanov noted his visit to Tripoli is “a continuation of Serraj’s visit to Russia and to develop mechanisms to implement what was agreed upon during that visit,” reports China’s state-run news agency Xinhua.
“We have promised your excellency the return of cooperative relations between the two countries and we will honor this pledge,” Bogdanov reportedly told the U.N.-backed Libyan PM during the meeting.
During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing focused on the crisis in Libya this week, lawmakers from both parties urged the Trump administration to remain fully engaged in Libya.
“The United States must be engaged,” said Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the panel. “When we don’t have representative governments… it creates a void, and that void is filled by ISIS, as we’ve seen in northern Africa, and it’s filled by Russia, which we’re seeing Russia’s engagement now in Libya.”
Republican Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee echoed Cardin in showing support for U.S. engagement in Libya during the hearing.
Citing American military officials and analysts in March, CNN reported that Moscow is trying to reestablish Russia as a superpower and extend its geopolitical sphere of influence by undermining the United States and capitalizing on the chaos in countries like Libya where the former U.S. president left a power vacuum.
Russia has expressed a willingness to push the UN to lift an arms embargo imposed on Libya, according to Gen. Haftar.
Serraj also expressed hope for Russia “to use its international status to help lift the arms embargo on Libya,” notes Xinhua.
Despite the embargo, Moscow “has reportedly reactivated an arms deal with Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar worth $2 billion,” points out the UK-based al-Araby news outlet.
Although U.S.-backed forces have pushed ISIS out of its Libyan stronghold in the coastal city of Sirte, the terrorist group remains a threat, Gen. Waldhauser told lawmakers in March.
“The status of ISIS in Libya is they right now are regrouping. They’re in small numbers, small groups… after they left Sirte, we developed intelligence. We bombed them on January 18, and they were in the southern part of Libya. They’ve scattered again now,” he said.
PM Serraj reportedly urged Russia to help Libya solve the ongoing armed conflict in the southern part of the North African country.
Since U.S.-backed factions overthrew and executed Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the country has been gripped by chaos.