Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Libya Update: Russia Changes the Game

By Richard Galustian - August 15, 2017 at 05:32PM

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A totally unexpected strategy emerged on the Russian side after yesterday's meeting with Field Marshall Haftar in Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's announced shift in Russian policy, couched in appropriate diplomatic language as shown in his Press Release below, changed Russia's game plan at a stroke. It appears that the Russian government has totally endorsed the United Nations track on Libya, saying it was was the right and only way to go and that the dodgy Paris Accord of the 25 July was the basis for peace. 

The Russian diplomat expressed his desire that the next and hopefully final round of UN Peace talks take place in a city in Russia or Chechnya, which would of course to be Russia's advantage. The Russians are planning to invite the UN-backed Government of National Accord Prime Minister Serraj to Moscow in the near future to fill him in on their position as well.

The fact that the Paris Accord produced a document co-signed by Haftar and Serraj that was broken within 24 hours of its signing suggests the event was more a farce than a road map to a peaceful settlement to six years of deadly unrest.

Here is Russia's Press release below. It's worth reading between the lines of what Lavrov says:
14.08.17 - 15:18
Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Libyan National Army Commander Khalifa Haftar

On August 14, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a meeting at the Foreign Ministry with Libyan National Army Commander Khalifa Haftar, who is paying a working visit to Moscow.

During the talks, the parties in particular focused on the current military and political situation in Libya with an emphasis on the measures being taken to resolve the intra-Libyan crisis through mediation of the international community as well as under the auspices of the UN. In this context, the parties discussed prospects of the intra-Libyan settlement in light of the meeting between Khalifa Haftar and Chairman of the Presidential Council and Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord of Libya Fayez al-Sarraj, held on July 25 in a Parisian suburb.

Russia confirmed the importance of the continuation of the inclusive intra-Libyan dialogue involving members of all major political forces, tribes and regions of the country in order to reach mutually acceptable solutions and to ensure conditions for Libya’s sustainable development as a united, sovereign and independent state. It was also confirmed that Russia is ready to provide further assistance in promoting the political process, in contact with all Libyan parties.
So what has caused Russia to change its strategy and embrace the United Nations Support Mission in Libya's (UNSMIL) past five years of failed talks? What happened and why did Lavrov tell Haftar he should comply with the outdated and defunct UNSMIL Skhirat agreement? Why is Qatari backed Misratan Militia in Doha and all happening at the same time?

Here's my assessment: Moscow sees an opportunity to advance many objectives: to play to the multilateral card but in a slightly different way; to gain bonus points with Europeans and America; and, I think, also to slow down the rush to Libya.

Why do I conclude this? Looking at some of the numbers for their, Libya's, grand plan, it's clear that they can't implement it right away, more like in five years or so. Therefore I deduce that in the meantime, by delaying all progress, the Russians have decided they can manipulate the situation and adapt to inevitable changing circumstances. 

It should be noted that Al-Buyan and Haftar's LNA have clashed many times in various Libyan cities.

So it seems the international game goes on with only the Libyan people not participating.

Galustian is a business and security analyst who has lived in Libya since 2011.

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