Haftar holds security talks with Italian officials

Libyan General Khalifa Haftar. (AFP)
Updated 27 September 2017
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Haftar holds security talks with Italian officials

ROME: Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar met Italy’s defense minister and security chiefs in Rome on Tuesday, bolstering his stature as a key player in international efforts to stabilize his troubled country.
Forces under Haftar’s command provide backing for a Tobruk-based adminstration that controls much of the east and south of the oil and gas-rich country.
Former colonial power Italy has hitherto been the strongest backer among Western allies for the UN-recognized Government of National Unity, which is based in Tripoli and sees Haftar as an arch foe.
But that did not prevent Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti from hosting the commander, a one-time ally and later armed opponent of Libya’s late dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
The meeting was not immediately confirmed by Italian officials but reporters camped outside the Defense Ministry said Haftar had spent three hours inside.
The unity government has struggled to establish its authority beyond the capital in a country scarred by conflict since the 2011 overthrow of Qaddafi.
Amid the chaos, Libya has become a launchpad for hundreds of thousands of migrants trying to reach Europe and a base for militants aligned with Daesh.
At surprise talks in Paris in July, Haftar and the unity government’s head, Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, agreed to a cease-fire and elections in the first half of next year.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson traveled to Benghazi last month to meet Haftar and the general was in Tunisia on Monday, meeting President Beji Caid Essebsi, who offered to act as a mediator between rival Libyan factions.
Italy has invested heavily in Sarraj’s fledgling government and has said it could lead a post-stabilization peace force in its former colony.
But it has grown frustrated by the weakness of the administration and has reportedly recently turned to dealing directly with militia groups in a successful effort to stem the flow of migrant arrivals.
Libya expert Mattia Toaldo said Haftar’s presence in Rome, reflected the growing influence of Interior Minister Marco Minniti, the architect of the migration strategy, “and the intelligence services who always thought the relationship with Haftar was important.”
With Italian naval forces engaged in training and support of the Libyan coast guard, dialogue with Haftar takes on added importance, Toaldo added.
“Remember the threats he (Haftar) made in August about Italian ships, they’ve all but disappeared now.”


Russia to send modern S-300 missile defense systems to Syria

Updated 24 September 2018
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Russia to send modern S-300 missile defense systems to Syria

  • President Vladimir Putin has ordered additional security measures after a Syrian Soviet-era S-200 air defence missile shot down a Russian military plane by mistake
  • Russia will transfer the modern S-300 air defence system to the Syrian armed forces within two weeks

MOSCOW: Moscow will bolster Syria's air defence with a S-300 system and jam radars of military planes striking from off the coast of the Mediterranean following the downing of a Russian plane, its military chief said.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that President Vladimir Putin has ordered additional security measures after a Syrian Soviet-era S-200 air defence missile shot down a Russian military plane by mistake, killing 15, in an incident last week that Moscow blames on Israel.
"This has pushed us to adopt adequate response measures directed at boosting the security of Russian troops" in Syria, Shoigu said in a televised statement.
"(Russia will) transfer the modern S-300 air defence system to the Syrian armed forces within two weeks."
Syrian military had already been trained to use the system, which was set to be sent over in 2013 but was held up "at the request of Israel," Shoigu said.
"In regions near Syria over the Mediterranean Sea, there will be radio-electronic suppression of satellite navigation, on-board radar systems and communication systems of military aviation attacking objects on Syrian territory."
Moscow says Israeli F-16 planes which struck Latakia in western Syria on September 17 later used the landing Russian Il-20 surveillance plane as a "cover," which resulted in the Il-20 being struck by a Syrian air defence missile.
"We are certain that the realisation of these measures will cool the 'hot heads' and will keep them from poorly thought-out actions which threaten our servicemen," Shoigu said.