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Russia Is Moving To Stabilize Libya, and the British Are Not Amused

March 3, 2017 (EIRNS)—So-called Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj arrived in Moscow for a two-day visit, for talks on the stabilization of Libya. According to the London Times, the meeting has been requested by the Italian government, which is formally backing Sarraj but is open to discuss a solution including Gen. Khalifa Haftar, Sarraj’s rival who controls eastern Libya.

Russia has so far backed Haftar, the only one who controls a national army and is open for an inclusive solution in which Haftar plays a national role. Sarraj met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov yesterday.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Russian sources claiming that there have been contacts between U.S. and Russian officials to discuss the future of Libya, focusing on the role played by General Haftar.

"Andrey Kortunov, director-general of the Russian International Affairs Council, which is close to the country’s Foreign Ministry, said Russia had through diplomatic channels made the case to Washington for ’potential cooperation on international terrorism because Libya might become one of the major hotbeds."

A person close to the Kremlin said Russian officials had spoken to officials at the U.S. National Security Council about General Haftar, as well as efforts to combat Islamic State in Libya and Moscow’s desire to make oil deals in the crude-rich country," although Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denied the Kremlin had reached out to the NSC about Haftar.

In the background of the ongoing Libya negotiations, Russia has built a pattern of economic deals in the last months involving all parties to the potential settlement: Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Italy and, of course, both Libyan factions: the one represented by Sarraj and one represented by Haftar.

Moscow has used Rosneft as an instrument. In the last months, Rosneft has:

  • Signed a deal with the Libyan National Oil Corp. (Feb. 21, 2017).

  • Bought a 30% share in the exploitation of the Shorouk offshore gas field in Egypt, the largest gas field ever discovered in the Mediterranean, from Italy’s ENI which has discovered the field and owns 90% of the concession.

  • Sold a 19% of its own share to Glencore and Qatar sovereign fund, an operation financed by Banca Intesa Moscow.

The latest deal in particular has been attacked by British outlets (Reuters, Financial Times) as a geopolitical operation. The British have alleged that the $5.2 billion loan extended by Banca Intesa to the Glencore-Qatar joint venture was covering a fake privatization and that most of the money came from the Russian VTB bank.

The Financial Times even reported that Italian regulators were probing the deal, but Intesa has denied the story.

Banca Intesa Moscow head Antonio Fallico, who organized the deal, is also the founder of the "Conoscere Eurasia" association and gave an interview to EIR in 2015.

Rosneft’s partnership with ExxonMobil in the last years is well known.