A visit that was paid to Moscow by the Prime Minister of the Libyan Government of National Consent, Fayez al-Sarraj has once again drwan the public attention to the problems of this country, that undergoes the crisis of duality of powers. Fayez al-Sarraj is representing the government that is situated in Tripoli, while the other government of Libya can be located the east of the country, in the city of Tobruk. Each of these powers has their own military capabilities, which only aggravates the situation.
According with the agreement concluded by the opposing parties in Morocco, the National Consent government was supposed to become the basis for the process of transition to a unified national governing structures.
Yet, in spite of the support provided by the United Nations, the United States, the EU and other countries to the National Consent government, it wasn’t approved by the parliament in Tobruk, which resulted in further instability. This government has no authority in the eastern part of the country, which is under the control of General Haftar – the commander-in-chief of the Tobruk army. What is even more important is that the absolute majority of oil reserves, along with the ports that enable it to be exported from the country are situated in the east.
The country is being plagued by a long list of problems, including internal feud and the plundering of its cities and villages by various radical groups that remains virtually unopposed. In 2016 alone, clashes between warring groups resulted in the death toll of over 1500 people, independent sources say.
In the absence of a sole authority to govern the country, the population of Libya frequently faces the shortage of food, queues at gas stations, regular problems with water and electricity supply. At the same time authorities are more concerned with the growing cash deficit, since most people cannot receive salaries for weeks, as banks are putting restrictions on all sorts of operations.
Last February, the representatives of the two governments at a meeting in Cairo agreed on updating the Moroccan agreement by agreeing on the procedures of creating of a unified power bloc. But the meeting between the head of the Fayez al-Sarraj and General Haftar didn’t take place, no matter how external players tried to make it happen.
Shortly after that meeting, the head of the Libyan government of National Consent announced that Moscow may play a role of a mediator in the settlement of the internal crisis in Libya. Various commentators have noted that this decision was provoked by the fact that Russia has well-established ties with the Tobruk administration.
A number of Western media sources rushed to accuse Moscow of various kinds of machinations. In particular, in the plans of making the “rebellious” general Haftar its instrument by forcing him to agree on the creation of a Russian military base in the country.
The Modern Diplomacy portal went as far as to announce that after its success in Syria, Russia has even more political ambitions in the world. It argues that it is in Moscow’s “interests” to carry on instability in Libya for it to remain a major “headache” for Europe.
Such speculations can only be explained by the delusional state some Western authors must have found themselves in. After all, no one has forgotten that six years ago, in March 2011, NATO’s military aggression against Libya significantly facilitated the to the overthrow of its leader.
Once Qaddafi was out the door, the bitter rivalry between clans and various armed groups resulted in the collapse of the majority of government institutions that supported the former government. The huge country suddenly found itself ungoverned and uncontrolled, and the consequences of this are evident.
The current course of the Russian Federation should be considered in the context of maintaining links with a wide range of influential major players in the Libyan politics. The presence of general Haftar among them is no coincidence since he’s one of the political heavyweights involved in the course of events in Libya.
Fayez al-Sarraj’s visit to Moscow didn’t go unnoticed by the Middle Eastern media. Russia’s involvement in the Libyan crisis, according to Libyan expert Muntaser Al-Khalasa, may result in it finding good use to the experience that she acquired in attempts to settle the Syrian conflict. Its role will not be military, as some assume, as it will devote itself to smoothing out the differences between opposing forces in a bid to bring them to a compromise. In addition, this step will prevent the situation in Libya from further deterioration, which is a truly sensitive matter for the EU.
The visit reflects two things, notes the Al-Wasat portal. First, we’re seeing Sarraj’s attempt to take advantage of Moscow’s growing influence in overcoming the obstacles he faced. Secondly, we are witnessing Moscow’s readiness to act positively to bring different Libyan parties together by putting to good use the special relations that it has established with a number of those, in order to bring peace to the Libyan soil.
Yury Zinin, Leading Research Fellow at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”