MOSCOW: Russia has welcomed the prospect of renewed military cooperation with war-shattered Libya as Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu hosted Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.
Libya has been gripped by chaos for almost a decade, since its leader Muammar Qaddafi was brought down and killed in a 2011 uprising.
In February, Libya embarked on a new phase of its post-Qaddafi transition after interim leaders were selected to lead the country until December elections.
“I consider your Moscow visit to be the first step towards resuming full-scale cooperation between the defense ministries of the two countries,” Shoigu told the Libyan prime minister in remarks released by his ministry.
Shoigu said he hoped that “the Russia-friendly Libyan people would overcome the years-long crisis which has broken out as a result of crude outside interference.”
Dbeibah and Mohammed Younes Menfi, chairman of Libya’s Presidential Council, face the task of trying to reunify the institutions of a state undermined by divisions between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and a rival administration backed by military leader Khalifa Haftar in the east.
Moscow has backed Haftar against the GNA in the conflict and has been accused of sending mercenaries of the Wagner Group private military company to join the fight.
Russia said in February it is prepared for “constructive” work with Libya’s interim leaders.
Dbeibah for his part said Libya needed Moscow’s support and expressed gratitude for President Vladimir Putin’s backing.
“We would like to give new momentum to our cooperation and build new bridges between our countries,” he said in remarks translated into Russian.
Dbeibah said authorities hoped that Libya would see a “new economic climate,” with Russia playing a key role and providing “economic support,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
On Thursday, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin hosted Dbeibah for talks on cooperation in energy and other spheres.
The talks took place as diplomats said the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing the progress that Libya’s warring sides have made towards peace since signing a ceasefire in October.
The opposing sides in Libya had asked for a UN resolution documenting their progress on political and security issues once they came to the ceasefire agreement last fall.
Libya has been ravaged by bloodshed since the fall and killing of Qaddafi.
An array of armed groups arose to fill the vacuum, and many coalesced around the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord or around strongman Khalifa Haftar, who backed an eastern administration.
The two camps fought for more than a year before Haftar was forced to retreat.
In October they signed a truce, setting in motion a UN-led process that saw a new transitional government installed in February.
The resolution that was passed in New York Friday calls for the creation of a ceasefire surveillance unit of up to 60 members within the UN mission in Libya, called UNSMIL.
This is separate from a ceasefire monitoring mechanism that the warring parties themselves are working to create.
The UN unit will help the local one oversee the ceasefire.
But the resolution says nothing about who will oversee the departure of the 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries who have joined the fray in Libya.
A recently released report by UN experts accused some foreign governments of turning the country into a stage to play out rivalries and ignoring UN sanctions and a decade-long UN arms embargo, which it said has remained “totally ineffective.”
The resolution “strongly urges all member states to respect and support the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement, including through the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya without delay.” It would also demand full compliance with an arms embargo on Libya.