By Nihal Zaroug.
Tripoli, 1 July 2013:
After returning from the G8 Summit at Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, announced . . .[restrict]that he would travel to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin.
The Moscow encounter coincides with today’s opening of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) Summit, of which Libya is a member.
Zeidan had said during a press conference on 20 June, he would also be travelling to Italy and some African nations, to “sort foreign relations”. On Russia, he noted that the two countries had an important relationship, which spanned for over fifty years.
Perhaps feeling the need to justify his upcoming trip to Moscow, Zeidan stated “ We are allies with the West, they helped us in the liberation war”. To maintain a balance in external relations, he added, a visit to Russia was in order.
However, there has been speculation into the real purpose of his trip is the resumption of arms sales and the restart of the railway project.
Early in June, a government official flatly denied that Libya had approached the Russians, asking Moscow to lift its embargo and restart weapons supplies. A diplomatic source told the Libya Herald, he doubted the likelihood of Libya buying more Russian weaponry, at a time when Moscow is supplying the Assad regime with arms.
Despite these statements, it is being reported that a $3 billion arms deal is up for discussion. According to the Xinhua news agency, Russian ambassador to Libya, Ivan Molotkov asserted that Libya had expressed a renewed interest in Russian weaponry. Molotkov, said no training is being considered as part of a new proposal. However, in the past, Russia trained Qadaffi military men. The last arms deal Moscow made with the old regime was worth some $4 billion.
Yet, during a press conference on 28 June, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was reported by The Voice of Russia Radio, to have urged the UN Security Council to investigate claims by US media, that arms from Libya are reaching Syria and neighbouring countries. Lavrov stated, “if this is true, this is a gross violation of the UN Security Council ban on arms deliveries to and from Libya”. This has been taken as an indication that a new deal is not on the horizon.
As to the railway project, this February Libya’s transport minister Mohamed Al-Ayib, cautioned both the Russians and Chinese, not to increase their original contract prices to reflect compensation for the two-year delay. He noted that the cost of construction materials had increased significantly since but gave the assurance that 50 percent of what is owed Russian and Chinese contractors would be paid, if they agreed to work under the original terms.
The Libya Rail Implementation Authority and China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), met mid-June. Neither side revealed details of the discussions. According to Lavrov’s statement to Xinhua, a Russian delegation is due to arrive in Tripoli to discuss railway works and present a new manager for the project, in which Belarus will participate as the general contractor. [/restrict]