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UK warns Russia to 'keep its paws off' Libya

UK defence minister Fallon has been posturing in the face of Russian influence in Libya

Date of publication: 18 February, 2017

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UK Foreign Minister Michael Fallon has told Russia to keep its 'hands off' Libya, amid Moscow's growing influence in the war-torn North African state.
The UK defence minister has issued a stark warning to Russia warning it to keep out of Libyan affairs, amid Moscow's growing influence in the country. 

It comes just a few months after a UK parliamentary report blamed UK military intervention for the collapse of the Libyan state.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was discussing the growing Russian endorsement of General Khalifa Haftar, following the Libyan's recent visit onboard a Russian aircraft carrier.

"We certainly don't need Russia, we don't need the bear sticking its paws in." said Fallon, speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Friday.

"We continue to urge the Sarraj government to reach out to the east [Haftar]," said Fallon.

"It is important that the [Libyan] government reflects the strengths of the east and the military leadership too in the east. Equally Field Marshall Haftar needs to reflect the interests of Misrata and Tripoli over in the west."

The minister's comments come shortly after NATO received an official request from the UN recognised government in Libya, asking for help in improving its security.

Russia's influence in Libya has been a cause of concern to NATO for some time, and General Haftar has been received by Russian officials on several occasions in the past two years.

"Putin is testing the west, he is testing the [NATO] alliance and at any point he sees weakness he pushes home. That's why it is important we stand up for our values and we continue to back the Sarraj government while urging it to be more representative of the interests of the east," said Fallon.

In November 2016 a UK parliamentary report said that the government was unwilling to learn the lessons of the Libya intervention that preceded the collapse of the Libyan state and the rise of IS in the country.

It found that the UK policy was guided by poor strategic intelligence and "drifted" into a policy of regime change.

Since the foreign intervention and Gaddafi's ouster in 2011 - following popular calls for democratic reform - Libya has been in turmoil. Several insurgency militias still seek power in the oil-rich North African country.

Gadaffi had ruled over the country in a brutal four decade reign, until he was overthrown by anti-regime militias.

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