Russia on Friday welcomed the prospect of renewed military cooperation with war-shattered Libya as Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu hosted Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah.
Libya has been gripped by chaos for almost a decade, since longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi was brought down and killed in a 2011 uprising backed by several Western powers.
In February, Libya embarked on a new phase of its post-Kadhafi 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 Mohammad 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-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and a rival administration backed by military strongman 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.