Gusev Leonid, expert of institute of international studies of Moscow state institute of international relations of MFA of Russia, PhD in historical sciences
Unconditional priority of Russia is the preservation of Libya’s sovereignty
and territorialintegrity. Russia is interested in Libya’s emerging from the protracted crisis as soon as possible, once again becoming a prosperous state, backed by strong state institutions, an effective army and law enforcement forces, restored the status of an important player in the regional arena.
Russia welcomed the signing of the political agreement on the parameters of national reconciliation in the Moroccan city of Skhirat in December 2015. Also Russia supported the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2259, which consolidated the Schirat agreements as a key element in the settlement of the Libyan crisis. It was Russia that introduced provisions to ensure the inclusive nature of the political process.
Since then, 3 years has passed, but the situation has not changed for the better.
The Presidential Council and the Government of National Accord created on the basis of the Schirat Agreement were not able to start fully working. The main tasks of the transition period, defined by the Shirat road map, have not been fulfilled either: the work on the text of the constitution has not been completed, general elections have not been held, and as a result, permanent bodies of power were not formed. At the same time, the Chamber of Deputies in Tobruk refuses to recognize the Cabinet of Ministers due to the fact that all Libyan political forces are not represented in it.
The confrontation between Tripoli and Tobruk led to an actual paralysis of the entire control system. As a result, social and economic problems are aggravated. On the background of the authorities’ vacuum, the presence of ISIS and Al-Qaeda (banned in Russia and other countries) remains in some areas, and the activity of local extremist groups associated with them is not declining.
Russia is convinced that it will be possible to solve the problem only if representatives of a wide range of socio-political forces, tribal and regional groups are involved in the work of government bodies at all levels.
It is obvious that the Libyan people themselves must decide the fate of the country. Attempts to impose ready-made decisions on them Russia considers counterproductive. At the same time, according to Russia, it is necessary to continue painstaking systematic work with both centers of power in Libya – both with Tripoli and their opponents in Tobruk, pushing to overcome internal disagreements, searching for mutually acceptable solutions on all disputable issues and parameters of national reconciliation. It is this balanced line that Russia will continue to pursue consistently.
On the importance of establishing a constructive dialogue, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov constantly speaks to our Western partners, and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Libya, H. Salame, and the Libyans themselves – Kh. Khaftar, who was in Moscow in November 2016, as well as to the Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies of Libya A. Saleh, who came to Russia in December 2016. Similarly, Russia is working with the authorities in Tripoli .
As it was said, Russia cooperates with other countries in resolving the Libyan crisis. Thus, Russia supports Italy’s efforts to resolve it. At the beginning of March 2016, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the government, formed in Tripoli by the pro-Islamic National Congress, Ali Ramadan Abuzakou agreed Italy to become the leader of international military forces to fight the militants of the ISIS terrorist group in Libya.
Russia regularly participates in all events on Libyan affairs, which are held in Rome. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at one of press conferences: “Today we agreed that the formation and approval of a legitimate government of national accord, which would have a real support in Libya itself, becomes especially relevant.” According to the Russian Foreign Minister, his Italian colleague, Mr. Paolo Gentiloni, he is European Commissioner for Economics now, informed the Russian delegation “about the main parameters of the discussions that the Italians, with their European and American partners, are conducting on a possible international mission of assisting the Libyan authorities with a focus on stabilizing the situation and creating more favorable conditions for fighting terrorism.» The results of this work will be presented to the UN Security Council, “P.Jantiloni promised.
Often the Russian Foreign Minister is asked what exactly Russia, having Syrian experience, can do to help the peace process in Libya? Is it possible to repeat the Syrian experience there? Sergei Lavrov always responds that one cannot view every situation from the same angle. If the Syrian Government appealed to the Russian Federation for help, then such an appeal to Russia has not been received from Libya.
The head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation declares that Russia, like Italy, is in favor of the implementation of the Schirat agreements in the form in which they were approved by the UN Security Council. In the course of the development of these agreements, they should include more participants than the number of signatories. “Knowing the Libyan realities and the extent to which the central authority in Libya is undermined, the influence of the groups controlling the various regions of this country, it is important to do everything to make this process as inclusive as possible, and in this context to ensure that its ratification will pass as it is necessary that it will be completely legitimate in the eyes of all the key Libyan forces, “said Sergei Lavrov.
The Minister underlines the importance of the time factor. “Probably, it would be wrong to wait until ISIS gets used to Libya in the same way as it got used to Iraq and in Syria some time,” he says. “I hope that there will be no repetition of the history in Libya that occurred during the discussion of the Syrian problems, when for more than four years, not only to us, but also publicly, our partners, including American, declared that it is impossible to mobilize the world community to combat ISIS while B. Assad is in power. ” According to the Russian Foreign Minister, this is “an absolute violation of all the requirements of the UN Security Council, which clearly decided that in the fight against ISIS there can be no excuses and justifications. “
Guided by this approach, Russia conducts systematic work with both centers of power in Libya – in Tripoli, and with their opponents in Tobruk. Russia is trying to push them to overcome internal disagreements, to seek compromise solutions on all disputable issues. The importance of establishing dialogue was emphasized in conversations with the Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies (the parliament in Tobruk), A. Salekh and the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Marshal H. Haftar, during their visits to Moscow in November-December 2016. In the same vein, Russia is also working with the Government of National Accord, with the premier F. Sarraj.
The contacts of the Russian side with Kh. Khaftar cause increased interest and agitation in foreign media and among international observers. In Moscow, our government comes to the conclusion that Kh. Khaftar is one of the political “heavyweights” that has a real influence on the alignment of political forces in modern Libya. In addition, Kh.Haftar has done a lot and continues to do in terms of fighting terrorists from the “Islamic state”. Thanks to him, Libya resumed export of petroleum products and began to receive the resources needed for solution of pressing social and economic problems.
Also, Russia believes that the Libyan National Army can form the backbone of the future unified armed forces of the country. In general, it is a well-equipped and organized paramilitary forces that have proven and continue to prove the ability to conduct large-scale military operations. Evidence of this is a rather successful campaign to clean up the extremists of Benghazi, Derna and a number of other settlements in eastern Libya. Its main function should be combating the terrorist underground and maintaining law and order in the country .
These are the main approaches of Russia to the solution of the Libyan crisis