Libyan Official Denies Russian Military Base Deal

Libyan Official Denies Russian Military Base Deal
Libyan Official Denies Russian Military Base Deal

On Thursday, the Investment Minister of the Libyan Parliament-designated government, Ali Al-Saiedy refuted claims regarding a purported agreement between Libya and Russia, granting Moscow a military base in the country’s east.

In statements to the Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed news agency, Al-Saiedy stated that “the Libyan National Army (LNA) does not have the authority to establish a naval and air base for Russia. Only the Libyan Parliament has the power to authorize such actions, and the Parliament has not discussed the matter at all.”

The minister clarified that “there might be agreements for training in aviation and naval sectors between the Libyan and Russian sides. Still, it does not entail the establishment of long-term bases for Russian forces on Libyan soil. Creating a naval and air base is the prerogative of the Libyan Parliament, not the military institution. As for short-term contracts for training and equipping the Libyan army, the military institution can undertake them without referring to the Parliament.”

Regarding the training provided by Moscow, Al-Saiedy highlighted that it is due to the “historical acquisition of most Libyan weapons from Russia. Libya has not changed its weapons system, and that is why the Libyan military institution sought Russia’s assistance in training its personnel in maritime and aerial fields.”

Concerning the payment for the training, Al-Saiedy said, “This training is not for free. Libya is currently elevating the skills of its soldiers and officers, and the cooperation with Russia involves remuneration for this training. The Russian side remains to train our military institution because, since 2011, most of the infrastructure of the military institution has been destroyed, including radars and camps. Now, we need to rebuild our institutions and train our new generation.”

He affirmed that Libya is in the process of “re-equipping its military institutions, and Russia is the best ally at this time.”

He pointed out that “the world is divided between East and West, and we stick with Russia because it is a clear and transparent state in the fields of security and military cooperation.”

Earlier this week, a high-ranking source from the LNA refuted any intentions to enter into an agreement with Russia, for the establishment of a military base in the east of the country.

The military source told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that the LNA, “plays a crucial role in safeguarding the nation’s sovereignty and has no need for such an arrangement.”

Additionally, the source emphasised that “military cooperation agreements with Russia do not include provisions for establishing military bases.”

He criticised the “misleading information” aimed at diverting attention from the presence of foreign military forces in western Libya.

He pointed out the existence of Turkish and American military personnel at the Mitiga and Al-Watiyah airbase. As well as Italian and British military forces at the Misrata airbase in western Libya.

The LNA’s Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar recently met with General Stephen J. Townsend, the head of US Africa Command (AFRICOM), and the current US Special Envoy to Libya, Richard Norland.

Bloomberg reported that Russia is seeking to conclude a defence agreement between President Vladimir Putin and Haftar, following their September meeting in Moscow.

Sources cited by Bloomberg claimed that Haftar is looking to acquire air defence systems to protect against rival forces in Tripoli, backed by the Turkish military.