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Robert Cusack

Putin refuses meeting with Libyan leader during official visit

Libya's GNA Prime Minister al-Serraj will not meet with President Putin in Moscow [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 1 March, 2017

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The Kremlin confirmed President Putin, who approved an arms deal with General Haftar last month, will not meet with Western-backed Prime Minister al-Sarraj during his official visit to Moscow tomorrow.
The Kremlin has publicly snubbed the prime minister of Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) by refusing Fayez al-Sarraj an audience with President Vladimir Putin.

A spokesperson for the president said that Putin had not scheduled any meetings with Sarraj during his visit to Moscow on Thursday and Friday.

A press release said Russia wanted an "early restoration of strong power in Libya" - potentially a reference to the military strongman, General Khalifa Haftar, Putin's preferred choice for Libyan leader.

"Russia would like Libya to once again become a full-fledged state after a barbarous foreign interference in this its internal affairs," said spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

The Kremlin reportedly approved a $2 billion arms deal with Haftar on a Russian aircraft carrier off the coast of Libya in January.

Russia was one of the main suppliers of weapons to the regime of formed Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi.

The dictator who was overthrown and brutally killed during a popular uprising in 2011 was provided with more than 2,000 tanks, 2,000 armoured fighting vehicles, 350 artillery weapons, dozens of ships and fleets of aircraft by the Russians.

Libya is roughly split into two halves, with west Libya controlled by the UN-backed GNA and east Libya largely under the control of General Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), while a number of militias act in between.

Haftar has publicly rejected the UN-backed GNA, which is supported by western states including the EU and the US.

He announced that he intended to capture Tripoli from al-Sarraj's GNA late last year and has recently attacked numerous positions of armed factions linked to the UN-backed government.

Sarraj survived an assassination attempt on February 20.

Since Gaddafi was removed from power in 2011, Libya has been in a state of civil war as various militias and armed Islamist groups vie for control in the rich oil-country.

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