General Khalifa Haftar took a tour on Russia’s aircraft carrier positioned off the Libyan coast and held a video call with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the biggest sign of growing ties between the Kremlin and the eastern Libya’s strongman.
The Information and Communication Administration of the Russian Defense Ministry revealed Haftar had visited the Russian aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, which was anchored off the Libyan coast, according to Bloomberg.
The Defense Ministry in Moscow said in an e-mailed statement that the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov was relocating from Syrian waters to a home port in Russia.
In the same context, Irish Syed, head of the foreign media department in the country’s east said that the ship was anchored off Libya’s city of Tobruk.
In a video call, Haftar spoke with Shoigu about taking actions against Middle Eastern terror groups. He also received medical supplies for Libyan fighters and civilians.
Moreover, a military source close to General Khalifa Haftar revealed that,”Haftar discussed with the Russian Defense Minister different ways to coordinate air force and naval maneuvers off the coasts of center Libya and especially near the oil crescent region.”
It is noteworthy that the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Haftar had taken over oil facilities in eastern Libya from Petroleum Facilities Guards, a rival militia force allied to the UN-backed government in the capital, Tripoli.
When media outlets revealed that the Russian carrier had entered the Libyan territorial waters eastern Libya at the same time that Haftar had arrived in Tobruk,all have expected that there is a preparation by Haftar to meet the Russian Chief of Staff, according to pro-Haftar media outlets before the Russian Defense Ministry revealed that Haftar visited its carrier.
Russia is trying to spread its influence in the North African country,”to restore some of its Soviet-era influence in the Middle East after turning the tide in Syria’s war through military intervention in support of Bashar al-Assad,” said Bloomberg.
In the same context, days ago, Sunday Times has unveiled Russia’s role in Libya and considered Russia as the “kingmaker in Libya” as it supports General Khalifa Haftar to be the future leader of the North African nation.
The British magazine stated that Moscow, which was emboldened by its military successes in Syria, has intervened into talks to end the civil war that erupted in Libya after the death of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
However, the Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that his country was deceived by the UN resolution that authorized the NATO bombing campaign to topple Qaddafi.
“Qaddafi’s fall was all the more of a blow to the Kremlin because a year earlier it had signed a deal to establish a naval base in the eastern city of Benghazi,” according to the Sunday Times.
But the turmoil in Libya has given Putin the chance to find his way to interpret his previous plan through Haftar.
In the same context, some recent media reports have been released at that time claiming that Russia may attempt to intervene militarily in Libya in support of the militia led by Khalifa Haftar.
“If Russian attempts succeeded, Russia will establish the second military air base in the Mediterranean, about 700 Km off Libya,” according to Debka, an Israeli intelligence news website, which also claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is preparing to establish a naval air base off Benghazi coast, like Hmeimim base close to Latakia, in exchange for naval and air support to Haftar.”(which revives Russia’s former deal signed with Qaddafi before his fall to establish a naval base in the eastern city of Benghazi.)
After the election of Donald Trump, Putin said he is willing to expand the American-Russian cooperation in the war Daesh in Syria to Libya.
According to Debka, Russia is also offering Haftar armaments of fighting jets, armored vehicles, and missiles.
According to the Russian proposal, the Russian planes will arrive directly to Libya from the Syrian Hmeimim, or from Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov that stationed now eastern of the Mediterranean. The aircraft carrier can sail from Syria to the center of Mediterranean and reposition off Benghazi. If such a plan was implemented, it would be the first time that Russian aircraft work in that part of the Mediterranean.
Moreover, there were recent talks that Russia will work on ending the arms embargo imposed on Libya.
Last week, Haftar said that he lobbied Putin to end the arms embargo the UN imposed on his forces when he visited Moscow early last month.
Haftar told an Italian newspaper Corriere Della Serra that “We were told that weapons can arrive only after the end of the embargo, and Putin is making efforts to cancel it.”
Haftar has visited Moscow twice the past seven months.
Last December, Khalifa Haftar has arrived in Moscow on an official visit to Russia for talks with Russian officials .
Haftar reportedly met with senior Russian officials including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, as well as the Russian National Security Council
In June Haftar visited Moscow when he met with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.
There is no doubt that the coming days would witness a strong cooperation between Haftar and Russia on the military level.
Haftar is a military figure, backed by Tobruk government based in eastern Libya that refuses to recognize the U.N.-backed government, enjoys the support of several Arab nations, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, as well as western countries as France.