Russia Swings back to Libya, Promotes the Late Qaddafi’s Son as Next Leader
Chaos-ridden Libya this week saw its first ray of light since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. An international conference in Palermo, sponsored by the UN and Italy, that ended on Nov. 13, was praised by Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte as a success, after Libya’s myriad parties and factions agreed to meet again in early 2019 to prepare the country for elections.
DEBKA Weekly’s sources report that the three key developments in Palermo occurred outside the conference hall. First, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s adviser for Libya, Lev Dengov, announced that Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi, the colorful son of the late ruler and a popular figure in the country, had been invited to the coming event to take part in the coming political process.
Second, Gen. Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army, refused to sit down at Palermo with Islamist delegations, but he agreed for the first time to join the rival Fayez al-Sarraj, prime minister of the Government of National Accord in Tripoli that is recognized by the UN. Present, too, were Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi, Algerian Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi, and his Russian counterpart Medvedev. Also there were French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian and the President of the European Council Donald Tusk.
Third, notable for their absence were Qatar, Turkey and the Islamist groups dominant in West Libya, meaning they have been sidelined as players in Libya’s political future. This, of course, could evoke military friction and hinder the coming elections. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Conte was certain when he talked to reporters that “a strong cohesion of the international community has come out of this conference.”
Russia, in particular, is celebrating its comeback to the shattered Libyan arena. President Vladimir Putin has not forgotten, or forgiven, the US, which under President Barack Obama and in cahoots with NATO powers, deceived the UN Security Council into backing their military escapade to overthrow Qaddafi, by claiming that its purpose was to protect civilians. Now Russia is going all out with a political formula for Libya’s future that brings together the powerful General Hafter and Saif al-Islami Gaddafi, a formidable duo.