Malta warns of Russia’s military support for eastern Libyan ‘warlord’
A Russia-backed Libyan warlord could start a “civil war” in Libya, increasing refugee flows to the EU, Malta has warned.
The danger comes as the Libyan commander, Khalifa Haftar, advances on Tripoli, the seat of the UN-recognised government, Malta’s foreign minister, George Vella, told press in Valletta on Friday (12 January).
“Haftar with his army is moving gradually, slowly from the east to the west … and possibly, eventually linking up with his colleagues from the west, from Zintane, and advancing in a pincer movement on the region of Bani Walid, and Misrata, and Tripoli”, Vella said.
“That would be disastrous, because it would create civil war and it would create more refugees running away from Libya”, he said.
Vella raised the alarm about Haftar’s close contacts with Russia.
He said Russia had so far respected a UN embargo on weapons transfers to Libya, even though Haftar had been “going to Moscow asking for arms”.
He said that Russia had a strategic interest in establishing a foothold in the central Mediterranean.
“It’s very difficult to predict what is going to happen”, Vella said.
“I’m not comfortable. We all know the Russians’ dreams have always been to have [military] bases in the Mediterranean”, he said.
Haftar, on Thursday, toured Russia’s aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, as it was sailing from Syria and held a video call with Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu.
They discussed “urgent issues in the fight against international terrorist groups in the Middle East”, a Russian statement said.